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By | June 25th, 2020 | 0 Comments

In Memory of J. Deal Begay Jr.

Deal Begay Jr., Vice-Chairman of the Cocopah Indian Tribe, died Sunday at Yuma Regional Medical Center.

Begay was 53, No cause was given for his death. “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Cocopah Tribal Vice-Chairman J. Deal Begay Jr.,” Tribal Chairwoman Sherry Cordova said in a statement released by the tribe. “Vice-chairman Begay Jr. passed in the early hours of June 21, 2020, at Yuma Regional Medical Center. The Cocopah Tribe has lost a great fighter for the Cocopah people.”

In the same statement, tribal officials added: “More information will be released at a later time. At this time, we ask for prayers and thoughts for the family and allow them the time to process this great and sudden loss.”

Begay was first elected as vice chairman in 2014 and was finishing his third term in that office at the time of his death. He also represented the tribe on the executive board of the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency that plans and coordinates road building and other transportation projects in Yuma County.

Before and during Begay’s tenure on the council, the tribe and the city of Somerton forged close ties, and Somerton officials expressed sadness Tuesday at news of his passing.

“I am saddened by such a great loss,” said Martha Garcia, Somerton’s vice mayor. “Vice Chair Begay was a great leader and a true friend of Somerton. My deepest condolences for family, friends and the Cocopah Tribe.”

Somerton City Councilman Carlos Gonzalez said Began exemplified the term “public servant.” “He was a tremendous partner in supporting the city of Somerton, but not only the city but all other tribal governments,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he met Begay while attending a tribal function about five years ago and developed a rapport with the Cocopah vice chairman. “He would talk to me about the vision he had for the tribe, and he had a lot of goals he wanted to accomplish,” Gonzalez said. “He was down to earth. He was very honest and humble. He didn’t try to go around in circles; he was always up front.”

Ian McGaughey, former Somerton city administrator and now deputy administrator for Yuma County, worked with Begay on number of projects that served both the city and the tribe. “Deal was always a real pleasure to work with,” he said, “and he always had service in mind. Service was at the core of who he was.” Begay, said McGaughey, was passionate about creating opportunities for youth recreation, and played a key role in helping secure funding to rehabilitate Somerton’s Joe Munoz Park and resurface its basketball court – facilities used by both city residents and tribal members.

“He loved music,” McGaughey added. “I would see him at the Cocopah Resort (attending performances of) tribute bands, and he was just a fun guy. He was always interested in increased development opportunities in Somerton. “I guess bottom line, he had a lasting impact on his community – both on the tribe and the region – and he is going to be sorely, sorely missed.”

John Courtis, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, said Begay played a key role in the tribe’s efforts to align itself more closely in the chamber’s mission of promoting healthy economy and good quality of life in the area. “The Yuma County Chamber of Commerce is deeply saddened by this loss. He was a great community leader, he was a contributor and he did a great job in collaborating for the greater good. He was a kind soul and a good man, and he’ll be missed.”

Courtesy of the Yuma Sun


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