TUBA CITY, Ariz. — A Navajo Code Talker who recently moved back into the Arizona home he built 60 years ago after the community renovated it died Friday, Navajo Nation officials said. He was 96.
Dan Akee, Sr., died at a hospital shortly before 10 a.m., according to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. Family members, including his son, Dan Akee, Jr., were with him.
The cause of death was not immediately given.
Akee is considered a hero among Navajos. While serving in the 4th Marine Division, he was one of hundreds of tribal members who used a World War II code based on their native language to stump the Japanese.
According to the tribe, Akee was present at conflicts on four Pacific islands including the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Akee and his wife, Margaret, had been living in a trailer alongside the home in Tuba City for the past six years after it fell into disrepair.
Tribal officials took note of their living situation and reached out to the Red Feather Development Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on reservation housing needs in Arizona.
Volunteers and donors pitched in to renovate the house.
The four-bedroom house got a new roof, flooring and windows, and an updated structural frame, restrooms and kitchen. Akee, who used a wheelchair, had an outside ramp and a master bathroom with a shower to accommodate him.
The community held a celebration when the couple moved in last February.
“He was just really overcome with emotion when he saw there were people who appreciated his service,” Begaye said.
Officials said no funeral plans have been made yet and there was no complete list of his survivors available.