Last of original 29 code talkers passes away

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 4, 2014

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(Times file photo)

Chester Nez

Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, died Wednesday in an Albuquerque hospital of kidney failure. He was 93 years old.

He is the third code talker to die in the past two months.

He is only one of two code talkers – Carl Gorman is the other – to write his memoirs. His book, "Code Talker," came out in 2011.

Nez had continued to be active in promoting the code talkers up until his last few months. He was scheduled to be interviewed in the next few weeks as part of a 30-minute documentary that was being done on his life.

Judy Avila, who helped Nez write his memoirs, said Wednesday that his death came unexpectedly.

Officials for the Navajo Code Talkers Association say there are about 35 of the 421 code talkers who are still alive. Most are in their nineties.

Born and raised in Chichiltah, N.M., and educated in a BIA boarding school, Nez joined the Marines shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He was immediately recruited to be in a new program to use the Navajo language as a code to fool the Japanese.

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