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Chester Nez, last of WWII's Navajo code talkers, dies at 93

Chester Nez, 93, the last surviving member of the 29 original Navajo code talkers, who at the urgent behest of the federal government devised an encrypted version of their language for use throughout the Pacific theater in World War II, died Wednesday in Albuquerque, N.M.

Robert Sallee, who was the last survivor of the Mann Gulch fire, which claimed the lives of 13 firefighters on a Montana mountainside in 1949 and has lived on in memory as one of the worst tragedies in the history of the U.S. Forest Service, died of complications from heart surgery May 26 in Spokane, Wash. He and two others survived the fire, which led to new training techniques and better safety measures for Forest Service firefighters.

Yuri Kochiyama, 93, a civil rights activist whose photograph famously appeared in Life magazine showing her cradling the head of Malcolm X moments after he was shot, died of natural causes June 1 in Berkeley, Calif. Her activism led directly to the U.S. Senate's agreement to pay reparations and apologize to Japanese-Americans like herself and others who were interned during World War II.

Mary Soames, 91, the last surviving child of Winston Churchill and a chronicler of history who wrote a series of books about her family, died May 31 in London. British Prime Minister David Cameron called her "an eyewitness to some of the most important moments in our recent history."

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, 88, a chemist and psychopharmacologist who introduced the world to the drug MDMA — later called ecstasy — while creating hundreds of other psychedelic drugs that ultimately provoked a harsh government crackdown, died of liver cancer Monday in Lafayette, Calif.

Marilyn Beck, 85, a widely read newspaper columnist and broadcast figure who helped introduce a style of impartial journalism to the celebrity gossip beat, died of lung cancer May 31 in Oceanside, Calif.

Chester Nez, last of WWII's Navajo code talkers, dies at 93 06/07/14 [Last modified: Saturday, June 7, 2014 1:55pm]
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