Quechan Tribal elder and head bird singer Willard Golding Sr. walked on February 19 from complications of pneumonia. He was 70.
“When I woke up this morning and saw the rain, I thought it was our Creator’s way of expressing his sadness,” Kenrick Escalanti, president of Kwatsan Radio, told the Yuma Sun the day after Golding’s death.
Escalanti called his death a “major loss to the Quechan Nation and Indian country.”
Golding spent his entire life on the Fort Yuma Reservation in Arizona and was a member of the Roadrunner Clan.
“He was well respected. He attended a lot of community events and provided his services by singing traditional songs at funerals, community events and special occasions,” Quechan Tribal President Keeny Escalanti told the Yuma Sun.
Lyman Golding, Willard’s son, told the Sun that his father served the tribe as head singer for more than 50 years and taught five generations of bird singers. He said his father was a funny and soft-spoken man who put aside “personal things” to help the tribe grow “strong in tradition.”
Daniel Golding, Willard’s nephew, told the Sun that he dedicated his life to teaching the tribe’s culture to younger generations.
“He gave a lot of his time to the community,” Daniel said. “He loved all tribal members. He considered them all to be his family.”
“Mr. Golding was an amazing man and teacher with cultural influence that will stand for generations to come,” Kenrick Escalanti said.
The family will hold a private viewing on Sunday, February 24 followed by a public procession at 5 p.m. over the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge from Funeraria del Angel to the Cry House (Fort Yuma Big House) on the reservation.