Camera club wants historical marker for prize winner from New Kensington

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Shortly after young Joe Bosco and his family moved to New Kensington in 1946, he met the future Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Eddie Adams, who was just three years older.

"Eddie and I worked together for about eight years at Lamendola's, my brother-in-law's market," recalled Mr. Bosco, now of Arnold. "He was like a part of the family and seemed bent on becoming a photographer. It seemed to me that every cent he made, he invested in photography equipment and even had a darkroom adjacent to his bedroom."

Mr. Bosco's hunch proved right. Born in New Kensington on June 12, 1933, Eddie Adams went on to cover 13 wars, beginning as a Marine Corps photographer during the Korean conflict. Sporting his signature hat and pony tail, he also photographed some of the world's most famous people, including Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro, Pope John Paul II, Clint Eastwood and Bette Davis. Over the years, as a photographer for The Associated Press -- where he put in three tours of duty in Vietnam -- and newspapers and magazines, such as Time, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Parade, he accumulated more than 500 awards.

But the iconic one, the photo that earned him the Pulitzer, was taken in 1968 and captured the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in the streets of Saigon by police chief Gen. Nguy Ngoc Loan.

"Eddie had a lot of mixed emotions about the photograph," said Don Henderson, president of the New Kensington Camera Club. "He didn't think it told the whole story, because earlier that day Gen. Loan's aide and family had been killed by the Viet Cong."

When Adams died Sept. 19, 2004, Mr. Henderson didn't know that he was originally from New Kensington, his hometown. When he found out, he began "kicking around" the idea of erecting a historical marker in Adams' honor.

In 2011, he formed a camera club along with his son, Shane, 28, and friend, Gary Sprague of New Kensington. An amateur, avid photographer since he studied graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Mr. Henderson formed the club partly to see that Adams got the historical marker he felt he deserved.

Networking with Bill Hall, former president of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Tarentum, and Jim Thomas, a member of the museum's board of directors, helped the club grow.

"I told them what we were trying to do to honor Eddie's accomplishments and they were very interested," Mr. Henderson said. "A couple of newspaper articles and a spring fundraiser in 2012 boosted membership and gave us enough funding to stage an Eddie Adams Day."

The event took place June 9, 2012, and featured a video of Adams' life titled "An Unlikely Weapon," and brought in as guest speakers Adams' wife, Alyssa, and his friend, John Filo, who took the iconic photo of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970.

The second annual Eddie Adams Day was staged on June 8 with a display of 21 of his photos at the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum, a talk by guest speaker Hal Buell, retired AP photo director, and dinner at the New Kensington Clarion Hotel.

The photo exhibit and related items will be on display at the mus-eum, 224 E. Seventh Ave. in Tar- entum, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

In December, club members plan to apply to the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Society for a historical marker that will honor Adams' accomplishments.

They have raised more than $1,800 for the marker, Mr. Henderson said. "We had to wait this long because an honoree has to be deceased for at least 10 years before an application for a marker can be made. If the request is approved, we hope to have the marker up by Eddie's birthday next June."

The club has a membership of 50 and more than 250 followers on Facebook. In the future, it wants to create a center for photography and the arts in New Kensington in Adams' memory. The center would be equipped with a darkroom, a digital editing room and photo studio and offer photography classes and workshops.

"As to the marker, we're looking at a couple of places," Mr. Henderson said. "Because Eddie was a Marine Corps veteran, a site next to the town's War Memorial would be fitting. Another site would be near where the New Kensington Dispatch was located, where Eddie once worked. ... I'd be happy no matter where they put it."

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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