Annapolis Man Who Took Iconic Photograph Of JFK Jr. Dies

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Every couple of years, a news photograph comes along that we’ll never forget. One of the most memorable images was taken by a photographer from Annapolis.

Mike Schuh reports he passed away this week.

It’s precisely 9:30 a.m. at Chick and Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis. A group gathers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a ritual started two decades ago, and usually, photographer Stan Stearnes is in the crowd.

“We’re here to discuss the life of Stan Stearnes,” said friend Skip Strovel.

Stearnes made a bit of news himself.

“The person who took the picture of John John saluting his dad’s coffin as it went by,” Strovel said.

He was the only photographer to catch one of the briefest, yet most powerful images of the Kennedy presidency.

“So when he got that shot, he felt like, `Boy, I’ve got something here.’ So he went back to UPI and his boss was all over him, saying `What are you doing here?'” Strovel said.

His instinct was correct: History came to him.

“His whole career was wound around that picture and that’s what put him in the spotlight and he became not just an everyday photographer,” said Ted Levitt.

Stearns left UPI in the 70s and came back to Annapolis to open a studio. He worked for United Press International so the press service owned the image. It’s so iconic the rights to publish and use it have been resold twice for millions of dollars.

“Stan wound up with $25. That was it,” Strovel said.

Even though he captured a moment seared into our collective consciousness, his name was sometimes excluded when the photo was published. Friends say if he couldn’t have the money, he at least wanted the credit.

“He was very, very proud of that,” Strovel said.

Stearnes will be buried Tuesday morning at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.

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