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Navadjo Code Talker Joe Vandever Sr. passed away on Friday at age 96. (Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Flags across the Navajo Nation will be flown at half-staff from Feb. 3-6 to honor the life and memory of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. who passed away last Friday. Vandever was 96.

“As we mourn the loss of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr., we also honor and remember all his great sacrifices for our Navajo people and the entire country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they lay him to rest this week,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. 

Vandever enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps in Santa Fe, N.M. on March 26, 1943 and was honorably discharged as Corporal on Jan. 22, 1946. He served in northern Solomons, Bougainville, Emirau Islands, Guam, Marianas Islands, Okinawa, Ryukyus Islands, Occupation of Japan, and Occupation of China. In 2001, he received the Congressional Silver Medal for his service as a Navajo Code Talker in World War II.

He 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 passed on Sept. 24, 2019.

Survivors include his sister Mary Vandever Delgarito; sons Gary, Tracy, Obie, Joe Jr., and Lester Vandever; daughters Beth Nez, Phegie Vandever Slim, Sheila Vandever Nez; 36 grandchildren, 55 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. He was preceded in death by his parents Emma and Walter Vandever; his wife Bessie D. Vandever; son Anthony Vandever; and grandsons Charleston, Antonio, and Travis Vandever. 

The viewing for Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Cope Memorial in Gallup, New Mexico. The funeral service will be held on Wednesday, February 5, at 10:00 a.m. at the El Morrow Theatre in Gallup, New Mexico. The burial will be on Thursday, February 6, 1:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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