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105-year-old WWII vet passes on


World War II veteran Sophie Yazzie celebrated her 102nd birthday at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, in this Aug. 20, 2016 photo. Yazzie died of natural causes on Saturday afternoon, her daughter Kathleen Yazzie-Lampert said. She was 105.

The Navajo Nation has lost one if its great matriarchs.

World War II veteran Sophie Yazzie, 105, passed on Saturday afternoon of natural causes, her daughter Kathleen Yazzie-Lampert told the Navajo Times in a phone call.

Yazzie was born in 1914. Yazzie, who was Kinyaa’áanii, was originally named Awéé’ Yázhí. The oldest female veteran in the Arizona – and one of the top four oldest Native American female veterans in the country – grew up herding sheep and tending to the family’s crops in what she calls “the best place on the rez” — Canyon de Chelly.

During the winters, Yazzie lived at her family’s home in Tsé Zhini, west of the Wheatfields Chapter House, herding sheep with her older sister.

Back then, she said, life was simpler.

“That was good enough with sheep and donkey,” Yazzie remembered in a previous interview. “Those (donkeys) are good animals. In the morning they’ll wait for you in the corral with the sheep. It’s nice to have sheep when you’re young. It’s nice to go wherever you want to go.”

In the summer, they took sheep to the summer sheep camp down in the canyon where they also planted a field of corn, squash, peaches and alfalfa on 14 acres of farmland.

They also played games, like hide and seek.

“You wouldn’t find a Navajo girl in the rock,” she said. “That’s the best place on the rez to be Navajo.”

Yazzie graduated from Wingate Boarding School in 1934 with 12 girls and 22 boys.

When the U.S. entered the war in December of 1941, Yazzie and her clan nephews -– a future Navajo Code Talker and one of the “Original 29,” Johnny Manuelito and Peter Manuelito — had no idea their paths would lead them to into the military.

Nearly two years later, on Jan. 22, 1943, Yazzie, 28, traveled to Santa Fe and enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which was eventually changed to Women’s Air Corps. After being sworn in with the Christian hymn “Rock of Ages” playing in the background, she was shipped off to Daytona Beach, Florida, where she completed basic training.

After boot camp, she learned she would be stationed at the now-closed Foster Air Force Base in Victoria, Texas, which is located 120 miles west of Houston.

After being honorably discharged, Yazzie met her soon-to-be husband, Jordan B. Yazzie, from Sweetwater, Arizona.

Both worked at the Wingate Boarding School. She was a cook and he worked in the warehouse maintenance department.

On Oct. 27, 1945, they married. They had four children, two boys and two girls. At the age of 70, Yazzie retired as a cook from the school.

Yazzie celebrated her 105th birthday on Aug. 17 in Tucson with family. She had been living there with Yazzie-Lampert since 2013.

Her daughter said services for her mother are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday at the St. Michael’s Catholic Mission Church in St. Michaels, Arizona. Burial will be at the Fort Defiance Veterans Cemetery. She added a family gathering was being planned and could be held at the Wheatfields Chapter House in Wheatfields, Arizona.

Donations may be sent to Karen Kuciver c/o Kathleen Lampert, 6110 East 30th St., Tucson, Arizona 85711.

About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero, an award-winning Diné journalist, served as a photographer, reporter and as assistant editor of the Navajo Times until March 17, 2023.


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