Historical marker for famed photographer Eddie Adams unveiled in New Kensington
Alyssa Adams said she started to cry after a state historical marker honoring her late husband, photographer Eddie Adams, was unveiled in his hometown of New Kensington on Sunday afternoon.
She and her son, August Adams, surrounded by other family, removed a cover from the blue-and-gold marker for her husband, who won a Pultizer Prize in 1969 for his famous Vietnam War photo of a South Vietnamese general executing a Viet Cong prisoner on a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
“It's just very moving to see it,” Alyssa Adams said after ceremonies held under stormy skies at the corner of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue. “It's beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful.”
Getting a marker honoring Adams was a goal of the New Kensington Camera Club since before its creation in 2011.
“It's been a rough ride, but we made it,” club president Don Henderson said. “I'm elated. I have to keep pinching myself.”
Adams was not eligible for a marker until at least 10 years after his death. He died in September 2004 at 71 after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
The effort to get a marker took two tries. The first application to the state Historical and Museum Commission was rejected, Henderson said, because of one missing element — Adams having a significant local impact.
The application was retooled to highlight his continued ties and involvement in the community. The marker was one of 25 approved in 2015.
Dolly Mistrik, president of the Alle-Kiski Valley Historical Society, was among those credited with helping to get the marker approved. She said it's something great for the community.
“It shows the community that no matter where you're from, if you're determined to do something, you can do it,” she said.
With 50 paid members, the camera club covered the $1,625 cost of the marker through its shows, fundraisers and member dues.
“It's wonderful,” club treasurer Bill Hall said. “Kids who come by will be able to read about somebody who grew up in this town. He made an impact all around the world. Kids need to know that. He's one of ours, and we should never forget what he's done, how much he affected the world just with his photos.”
New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo read a proclamation declaring Sunday as Eddie Adams Day in New Kensington.
“Mr. Adams once said that all that a Pulitzer really does is give the obit writer something to put between the commas after your name,” Guzzo said. “As we celebrate the life of New Kensington's own Eddie Adams, I would like to think he would be happy that we are celebrating it by talking about his New Kensington roots, his humanitarianism, his honesty, his heart and his desire to change the world through all of his photographs.”
The unveiling capped off a weekend of Eddie Adams celebrations, which included a reception and display at Penn State New Kensington and an annual dinner at the Hill Crest Country Club, both on Saturday.
With the goal of the marker achieved, Henderson said the camera club has started a project, “F-Stop ALS,” to raise awareness of Lou Gehrig's disease. The club also wants to establish a photography workshop in hopes of making New Kensington a destination for photographers, and turn one of the city's empty buildings into an Eddie Adams museum.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or [email protected].