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

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer offered their condolences to the family and loved ones of Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr., who passed away on Friday morning at the age of 96 in Haystack, N.M.

“The Navajo people have lost another great warrior who sacrificed more than we’ll ever know to defend our country," President 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.”

Vandever passed away due to health complications, according to his family. 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.

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.

“Navajo Code Talker Joe Vandever, Sr. was a great warrior and a compassionate family man. In every aspect of his life, he was a loving person who cared greatly for his people. Today, I ask our Diné people to keep his spirit and his family in your prayers as we give thanks for his life and his legacy,” Vice President Lizer said in a statement.

Navajo Speaker Seth Damon expressed his condolences as well.

“The 24th Navajo Nation will provide the Vandever family with a letter of condolence and a Navajo Nation Flag to honor the honorable and faithful service of Navajo Code Talker Daniel Vandever Sr. to the Navajo people,” said Speaker Damon.

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. Services are being arranged with Cope Memorial Chapel in Gallup, NM. Burial will be in Santa Fe National Cemetery. Further details are forthcoming.

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