NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — The sailor photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II was mourned Friday at a funeral in Rhode Island.
George Mendonsa’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, and he was buried at St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown.
Mendonsa died Sunday after he fell and had a seizure at an assisted living facility, his daughter said. He was 95 and leaves behind his wife of 72 years.
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Mendonsa kissed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered.
The two had never met.
Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of the kiss became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. First published in Life magazine, it’s called “V-J Day in Times Square,” but is known to most as “The Kiss.”
Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.
Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.
Mendonsa enlisted in the Navy in 1942, after high school. He served on a destroyer during the war.
Mendonsa was on leave when the end of the war was announced. When he was honored at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.
On Monday, a statue depicting the kiss in Sarasota, Florida, was vandalized. The phrase “#MeToo” was spray-painted on the leg of the statue.
Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.
“The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress.
She added, “It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”
Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at age 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age.
After the war, Mendonsa became a commercial fisherman, like his father, and worked until he was 82. He died two days before his 96th birthday.
Survivors include his wife, Rita; and his children, Ronald Mendonsa and Sharon Molleur, and their families.
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