Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Good Word from Don Reeves

About seven years ago I traveled to San Diego working for the Sculpture Foundation to photograph the installation of a 25 foot version of "Unconditional Surrender". The sculpture is a depiction of the iconic moment in history when the war ended - the nurse kissing the sailor - by artist J. Seward Johnson. Following the construction would be an unveiling ceremony with war veterans, bands and the Carrier USS Midway in the background.

The San Diego representative there working with the grounds, the San Diego Harbor, the Midway and general liaison with the community was an architect named Don Reeves. His actual title there I can't actually say - but for the next several years, the many images I shot there that weekend, and others, were used to advertise the Harbor, San Diego, the Sculpture etc. in brochures, websites, articles and more. Among the many images taken was one great portrait of Don Reeve's himself - later professed to have been his wife's favorite.

The following years were hard for Don. I didn't know his family, his business or any of the characteristic things one might know as a friend. We were acquaintances at best - but from the moment I first met him, he was the sort of fellow with the character, demeanor and warm nature that you just could not help but like. Don's health deteriorated over the years and for a time put him on the sidelines. It was sad to hear from afar.

I've interacted with him four times since the beginning, the last was this past February 17 at the installation ceremony of the Bronze replacement sculpture purchased by the people of San Diego through private donations and their local Public Art Trust. So too was there work with the "Spirit of 45"and "Honor Flight" - groups of folks whose mission is to honor and memorialized the men and women of World War II.

At the opening ceremony seated near the front was Don Reeves in his California suit and bow tie. His wife had just broken a bone and was there with him on wheels. During the Ceremony, Don was recognized by the Assemblymen, Mayor and other community leaders as the man most responsible for bringing the sculpture permanently to San Diego Harbor as well as honoring veterans so well with it. I didn't know if he would remember me but I stopped by his chair to say hello and to shake his hand when the ceremony was over. To my surprise, he did remember me and then he thanked me. Why is that I said? Your pictures - he replied. He said that they told the story in a way that made sense to people and that all through the years, the imagery from the first opening ceremony made his job easier - getting the word out, raising money and making the whole thing a reality. And there I was - among all these great surviving war veterans, their families, their friends - the Navy Band, the USS Midway and it made me smile. I was giddy happy that I got a pat on the back from the man himself for helping him to make it all happen.

Update: Don Reeves passed away on Friday, September 20, 2013 with complications from a stroke. He was a real good man - and since the reason to live is to live for something that will outlast you - he did that well too.

1 comment:

fitzinfrance said...

This is a wonderful tribute, Carl, to a special man.
Hope you are well. Sending you love from France.