The Ak-Chin Community Louis Manuel Jr.|Photo courtesy of public domain

MARICOPA, Ariz. (AP) — A former chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community died suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend, the tribe announced Monday. 

Louis Manuel Jr., 57, served multiple terms on the Tribal Council and oversaw the community whose reservation is near Maricopa, immediately preceding current Chairman Robert Miguel.

“Words cannot express the pain and suffering the community is enduring at this time,” Miguel said in a statement. “He not only was a great leader, but a great father, husband and friend. He loved his community and always put his people first.”

Manuel died Sunday. A spokesman for the tribe, Matthew Benson, did not elaborate on the cause but said it was not related to the coronavirus.

Lisa Garcia, who serves on the Tribal Council, said Manuel was the kind of boss who sent birthday wishes, thank you notes and plants to his employees, which she still has in her office. She said he routinely checked in on friends and colleagues during difficult times or to offer a helping hand.

“Today we remember his many achievements,” she said. “It’s his giving heart that will be missed the most.”

Flags have been lowered within the tribal community in honor of Manuel. Funeral services are pending.

Manuel’s tenure as a tribal official included the expansion of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino and construction of an entertainment venue, as well as other amenities. The tribe said he was a strong advocate for American Indian education, services for the elderly, and social and healthcare services for tribal members.

He also served with inter tribal organizations, including the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.