John Lee Chaves obituary photo
 
In Memory of

John Lee Chaves

August 19, 1940 - August 13, 2017

Obituary


When John Lee Chaves took his last breath in the early morning of August 13, 2017, at the age of 76, he completed a remarkable journey that began under the hardest of circumstances. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Max and Mildred Chaves, John's early life was largely defined as a member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe. Determined to live a life that his parents and ancestors couldn't, John joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17; during his service he fell in love with aviation, which eventually lead him to Northrup University's engineering...

When John Lee Chaves took his last breath in the early morning of August 13, 2017, at the age of 76, he completed a remarkable journey that began under the hardest of circumstances. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Max and Mildred Chaves, John's early life was largely defined as a member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe. Determined to live a life that his parents and ancestors couldn't, John joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 17; during his service he fell in love with aviation, which eventually lead him to Northrup University's engineering program and later, President of his graduating class. Following his bachelor's degree and his early professional achievements, John was invited by the American Indian Law Program to try his hand at law school; Native American lawyers were desperately needed. That invitation changed his life-and the lives of many who would come into John's orbit.
Upon the completion of two law degrees, John worked in Washington, D.C. with the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs on economic development, environmental issues, and land use. Eventually finding his way to Florida as a highly sought-after voice on Native American legal issues, John was a co-founder and co-director of the Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs. His legal work on behalf of the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes was pivotal in passing several pieces of state legislation. John had a long and varied career within state government that included working for the Department of Environmental Protection, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. At the time of his death, as an attorney for the Florida Council on Human Relations, John was still actively pursuing solutions to the many injustices he encountered. John not only actively shaped policy and law, but he also taught it to the generations following him. Here in Tallahassee, students at FSU, TCC, and Lively learned from one of the nation's true legal pioneers.
An avid "collector" of friends and stories, John was also an "enthusiastic" collector of stuff-from pocketknives and ball caps to car parts, classic cars and trucks. In fact, John's backyard bears vivid testimony to his mechanical passions! During his other passion - cooking gourmet meals for friends- John's storytelling ran the gamut: from tales of reservation life, working on "that corner" in Winslow, Arizona, and his Navy adventures in Rhoda Spain, to discussing complicated Native American issues, airplane designs and describing the next truck or car part he was going to buy.
John is survived by his beloved wife, Deborah "Goldie" Chaves, brother, Glenn Chaves (Diane), daughters Maxette Arney (Tim), Joelle Smith, Tamiene Nims, stepdaughter Kathryn Rowe, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Allen Fred Chaves.
Goldie will host a gathering for family and friends to visit and remember John. It will take place at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum (6800 Mahan Drive) on October 7, from 3-5 PM. In lieu of flowers or food or heaven forbid, car parts please drive your favorite old car and bring your memories and stories to share!

Please visit www.culleysmeadowwood.com to share online condolences.



Arrangements under the direction of Culley's MeadowWood Funeral Home, Tallahassee, FL.