"As an Air Force veteran," Petersen wrote on Facebook, "Lee is entitled to burial benefits. I am working on that."
It was a sad end for the once cherubic Aaker, who began working in films and on TV as a pre-teen. On TV from 1948, he had uncredited bit parts in classic movies like "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) and "High Noon" (1952), and distinguished himself with meatier juvenile parts in "O. Henry's Full House" (1952), "The Atomic City" (1952), "Jeopardy" (1953), and "Hondo" (1953), in the latter working opposite John Wayne and Geraldine Page.
After auditioning unsuccessfully to play Jeff on the original iteration of "Lassie," he succeeded as Rusty on "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," which aired from 1954-1959. In the series, he played an orphan being raised by soldiers of the U.S. Calvary in the 1860s. The popular, low-budget show featured the talents of a German shepherd named Rin Tin Tin. The original Rin Tin Tin had been a silent movie superstar, and the series made use of one of his descendants and several other, unrelated dogs.
Not long after the series ended, Aaker's opportunities dried up. He managed to work on a few projects, including making four appearances on "The Magical World of Disney" (1959-1962), playing a bit part in the big-screen "Bye Bye Birdie" (1963), and closing out his acting career for good with an episode of "The Lucy Show" in 1963.
Aaker once said he had taken a $10,000 lump payment from the makers of "Rin Tin Tin" and lived off that post-acting, traveling the world.
Married once and divorced, Aaker worked as a carpenter and as a sports instructor before falling on hard times.
His final public appearance was to accept a Golden Boot Award in 2005 in honor of his achievement on his western-themed series. In the photo above, he is seen second from left with (from left) Johnny Crawford ("The Rifleman"), host Haley Joel Osment, Eilene Janssen ("Escape from Red Rock"), Mickey Kuhn ("Gone with the Wind"), Gary Grey ("Return of the Bad Men"), Michael Chapin ("Song of Arizona") and (bottom) producer Patrick Curtis.