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Beloved elder Tom Claw passes away
June 11, 2009

Former Navajo Code Talker, 87, was one of Tribes’ most respected figures

CRIT lost one of its most beloved and respected members recently with the passing of elder Tom Claw, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II. Claw passed away on May 26 in Prescott. He was 87 years old. He was born in 1922 in Many Farms, Arizona.

After marrying wife Barbara in 1941, Claw enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943, and became one of only 29 Navajo military members to provide critical wartime communication to Allied troops.

Claw was with the 1st Marine Division and served in several locations in the Pacific Theater from 1943 to the end of the war. Claw was recognized with two Presidential Citations for his heroic service, as well as the Purple Heart when he was injured serving in Okinawa.

Claw and his wife moved to the Parker area in 1948 as part of a group Navajo and Hopi families invited by CRIT to be colonists in the area. As part of the move, the families were required to switch Tribal affiliation, and Claw became a member of CRIT.

Claw worked at Le Pera School as a bus driver for several years before going to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a water manager. He retired from BIA after 20 years of service.

Tribal Chairman Eldred Enas said that Claw was an inspiration for many Tribal members because of his service to his community and to his country.

“Tom Claw was a great man and someone we were all very proud to have as part of our tribe,” he said. “His contributions to his country were immeasurable, but his contributions to his community and the way he inspired our people to become better citizens was equally important.”

The Tribal Council underwrote the entire cost of the funeral service, police escort, and the reception that was held at the BlueWater Resort & Casino in the Bingo room. The reception was packed with close to 500 people. Dignitaries from the Navajo Nation also attended the event, and presented the family with a proclamation honoring Mr. Claw as a Navajo Code Talker.

Tribal Councilman Dennis Welsh said that Mr. Claw was one of the most respected elders in the Tribal community. “Mr. Claw was a personal friend of mine,” Welsh said. “He was not only a very humble man, but a great man who gave a lot of himself to his family, our tribe, and our country. Being of Navajo descent myself, he made you proud to be Navajo.”

Claw was the last of five Navajo Code Talkers who lived on the CRIT Reservation. The others were Ambrose Howard Sr., William "Bill" McCabe, Tom Gorman and Joe Palmer.

Claw is survived by wife Barbara, children, Pauline James, Gloria Claw, Carolyn Hammond, and Harold Claw, of Parker; and Reynold Claw, of Clearfield, Utah. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.

Services were held at Poston Community Baptist Church, with Pastor Shawn Thompson serving as officiant. The 6th Engineering Support Battalion of the Marine Corps, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7061 and American Legion Post No. 70 conducted military honors at the services.

Claw was interned in the Veteran's Section of the Parker Cemetery.

(Note: This article contains information from The Parker Pioneer.)

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