William Tully Brown, USMC Navajo Code Talker, Passes Over

Veteran USMC William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker

Photo courtesy Vee F. Browne-Yellowhair.

USMC Veteran, William Tully Brown, Navajo Code Talker, wearing his uniform for the last time when he swabbed to provide his DNA for posterity. What a legacy this man leaves, literally from the beginning of his life to the very end.

William Passes Over

This isn’t the article I was supposed to be writing. 

My flight was booked for Wednesday, June 5th. On the afternoon of the 5th and the 6th, I was supposed to be meeting William Brown. Explaining his DNA results to him in a way that a 96-year-old man can understand and thanking him for his service. I was preparing a little booklet for William so he could show visitors.

I was looking forward to hearing the stories of this incredible man who made history.

William reminds me of my father and was born exactly 2 months before my mother. I referred to him as “Cheii,” or “Grandfather” in Navajo. In the Native culture where I was raised, Grandfather is an honorary way of addressing someone older and for whom you have great respect.

William was incredibly proud of his Navajo heritage as well as his service to his country as a Code Talker.

William passed over early this morning, “walking on” to the next world. You can read more about his passing, here. I honored William on Memorial Day with a special article, here.

My condolences to William’s family and especially his daughter, Vee, who has become my sister-of-heart.

The Code Talker Quilt

As we were arranging the trip to Arizona, I knew I needed to make William a quilt, and quickly. It had to be a very special quilt – fitting for a true American hero, one of very few who had received the Congressional medal of honor.

Code Talker Quilt

I was incredibly honored to be able to provide this gift of love and comfort to one so richly deserving. The person in the star part of the quilt is a Native American wearing a Congressional Medal of Honor. Could there be a more fitting image?

Thankfully, everything worked perfectly, and the quilt went together seamlessly (pardon the pun), albeit mostly in the middle of the night. My special friend, Pam, quilted it the next night, and the following day, the quilt was photographed, boxed and on its way. Record time!

Roberta Estes with Code Talker Quilt

As William’s quilt was winging its way to Arizona, his DNA was winging its way to the Family Tree DNA lab in Houston for advanced Y and mitochondrial DNA testing thanks to Vee.

My husband overnighted the quilt on Friday before Memorial Day when we realized that William might not live until my visit on the 5th. Plus, I wanted William to be able to enjoy the quilt for as long as possible, given that his time on earth was limited. But, ironically, the Memorial Day holiday interfered.

I was looking forward to taking a picture with William and the quilt this week. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

The quilt will now be used by William’s family to honor him Thursday at his funeral.

Unfortunately, I cancelled my travel plans when William was so gravely ill, not wanting to be intrusive at a difficult and private time, so I won’t physically be there with them – only in spirit. His family was very generous with their invitation.

William’s Legacy

William left an incredible legacy, stretching over three quarters of a century. First, saving our Nation in our time of desperate need followed by his final act 74 years later being that of a humanitarian. Contributing his DNA to unknown generations in the future – connecting them through the threads of time. Vee said that he loved everyone, and it showed.

Veteran, patriot, hero, humanitarian.


Rest in Peace, William Tully Brown.

Semper fi

USMC Navajo Code Talker patch



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21 thoughts on “William Tully Brown, USMC Navajo Code Talker, Passes Over

  1. How wonderful you paid tribute to him. The code talkers helped us win the war. And the quilt you made to honor him is beautiful. God bless you and all the men and women who served in the past and at present.

  2. Great patriot and war hero. He was awarded the Presidential Gold Medal . . . . not the Medal of Honor. I’m sure he would want the correct medals noted. “He received the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Honorable Service Label Button.” https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/06/03/navajo-code-talker-has-died-william-tully-brown-was-96/

    Great story and appreciate your sharing.

  3. I was a child in WWII and had a number of relative serve in the war. When the role of the code talkers was revealed we were so thankful to them. The quilt is a beautiful honor to him and his family. May he rest in peace.

  4. Enjoyed the Memorial Day article, and this one as well.

    Disappointed for you that you missed the opportunity to meet Mr. Brown in person. Take comfort in knowing, that he knew you were coming, and with his walking over, that you would continue to work with his daughter, your sister-of-the-heart.

    What honor you brought to Mr. Brown and all Wind Talkers, You have a wonderful future laying before you and your new family.

    ♡ Ally n Cali

  5. Roberta,
    Thank you for the articles on William Tully Brown. I am sorry you did not get to meet him…my condolences to you and his family
    Fair Winds and Following Seas Shipmate. Semper fi. Hand Salute….
    Awesome article s again and great tribute to a Shipmate


    Cindy Carrasco
    Retired MR1 (SW) USN

  6. Sad to hear that Code Talker William Tully Brown passed over before you were able to meet him. The code talkers were unknown heroes for way too long. Your point that he contributed life saving codes during his service and life giving codes by sharing his DNA for future generations was spot on.

  7. My sympathy to William Tully Brown’s family. What an interesting service he had! Also, the quilt is beautiful. Do you have another blog where you discuss quilting? I would love to know more about how this was put together. Do you use some machine embroidery for the Native American or the words? What a nice tribute!

  8. I am so sorry that you were not able to meet William T. Brown. I was excited for you and looking forward to the article/s I was sure would follow. Thankfully you were able to get the quilt to him. I always think that it is better to appreciate people who are still living than wishing you had appreciated them more after they have already crossed over. You were blessed to have made the quilt and I know his family will be blessed by it for many years into the future. Recently, I felt compelled to post everything I could find about the Perkins Family on Facebook. I heard from a family member that our oldest family member had seen them and enjoyed them the entire week before she passed. When I posted the material and pictures I didn’t even know she was sick. We never know when someone will have to leave us but I think we must have a spiritual connection with some that urges us to do things that turn out to be blessings all around. William Tully Brown’s exceptional spiritual strength and energy that blessed nations around the world whose populations probably had no idea who he was or what he did for the world.

  9. Another of the greatest generation passes on and we can never thank them enough for our freedom.

    Thanks so much for shining your light on this American hero.

  10. Roberta, I am so impressed that you were able to tell the story of William T. Brown. Sad that you were unable to meet him as you had planned.

  11. Pingback: William Tully Brown, USMC Navajo Code Talker, Passes Over — DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  12. I’m reaching out to my blog followers in a way I have never done before. The family of William Tully Brown, USMC veteran Navajo Code Talker needs immediate assistance with his funeral expenses. Personally, I’m appalled that the family of a hero is in this type of position. I have set up a GoFundMe page and everything raised goes to the family. I made the first contribution. Please contribute if you can, and please share. https://www.gofundme.com/william-brown-navajo-code-talker-funeral

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