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Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. dies at 96

Joe Vandever, Sr. died in Haystack, New Mexico, on Friday, the Navajo Nation announced.
Credit: Navajo Nation
Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr.

A Navajo Code Talker died on Friday morning in New Mexico, the Navajo Nation announced. 

Joe Vandever, Sr. died in Haystack, New Mexico, on Friday. He was 96. He died from health complications, according to his family. 

“The Navajo people have lost another great warrior who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know to defend our country," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.

"On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we offer our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his wife, children, and many other loved ones."

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2011, file photo, Leland Anthony, Arizona Rep. for Indian Health Incorp., left, speaks with Navajo code talker Joe Vandever Sr. during Native American Day at the roundhouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the few remaining Navajo Code Talkers who used their native language to confound the Japanese in World War II has died. Joe Vandever Sr. died of health complications Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Haystack, New Mexico, west of Grants, according to his family. He was 96. Tribal leaders called Vandever a "great warrior" and a "compassionate family man," and asked Navajos to keep his spirit and his family in their prayers. (Jane Phillips/The New Mexican via AP)

Vandever, Sr. was born on Feb. 5, 1923, into the Red Running Into the Water People clan, born for Two Who Came to the Water clan. 

He was married for 73 years to his wife, Bessie D. Vandever, who died last year.

Vandever enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in Santa Fe in 1943 and was honorably discharged as a Corporal in 1946. 

His funeral services are being arranged with Cope Memorial Chapel in Gallup, New Mexico. He will be buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery.

His death leaves less than a handful of Navajo Code Talkers still alive. 

Vandever is survived by his sister Mary Vandever Delgarito; his sons Gary, Tracy, Obie, Joe Jr. and Lester; his daughters Beth Nez, Phegie Vandever Slim, Sheila Vandever Nez; 36 grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.


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