Wilfred DeFour, a surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of Black pilots in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, was found dead in his Harlem, New York apartment, according to the New York Daily News.
DeFour was found unconscious and unresponsive by his home health aide on Saturday morning. Authorities believe he died of natural causes, but an autopsy was scheduled to determine his official cause of death.
“You would never know [Wilfred DeFour] was 100,” neighbor Joanne Wells told the newspaper.
Wells continued, “He had a little cane but he walked. He had all his faculties. His mind was as sharp as a whip.”
DeFour was a technician with the Red Tails, a group of men who painted the tails of their planes red. The squadron’s legacy was immortalized in 2012 with an eponymous film directed by Anthony Hemingway and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrance Howard.
After the war, the DeFour worked with the US Post Service for 33 years.
Last month, the centenarian attended a renaming ceremony of a Harlem post office in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, according to WABC.
“I regret so many of my comrades are no longer here with us,” DeFour said at the event. “It will mean there’s recognition for Tuskegee Airmen and that’s very important.”
DeFour is survived by a daughter.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.