The sailor famously photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II has died at the age of 95, his family said.
George Mendonsa’s daughter Sharon Molleur told The Providence Journal that Mendonsa fell and had a seizure Sunday at an assisted living facility in Rhode Island.
Mendonsa was seen kissing dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman in the iconic photo taken on the day Japan surrendered to the U.S.
“It’s what everybody was doing on August 14, 1945,” Lawrence Verria, co-author of “The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II,” told the Providence Journal. “Everybody was kissing and hugging. As soon as the kiss was over, they went their separate ways.”
Mendonsa, who was a fisherman, lived in Rhode Island for 70 years with his wife. Friedman passed away in 2016 at the age of 92.
On the afternoon her photo became part of American history, Friedman stepped out of her Lexington Ave. office after hearing reports that the Japanese had surrendered.
The then-21-year-old wandered into Times Square where she was grabbed and kissed passionately by Mendonsa, who was thrilled at the news of the war being over.
The picture, taken by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, became one of the most famous images of the 20th century. However, Mendonsa could not convince the magazine that he was the man in the photo.
“The evidence is so overwhelming,” Verria told the Providence Journal. “There really is no doubt … This man deserves the credit during his lifetime.”
Verria said that Mendonsa “really was bigger than life.”
Mendonsa told CBS News in 2012 that he was on a date with another woman at Radio City Music Hall when, “They stopped the show and they said, ‘The war is over. The Japanese have surrendered.’”
He said that he and his date headed out to a bar to celebrate.
“The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks,” Mendonsa said. “… So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her, and I kissed her.”
Friedman recognized her photo as soon as she saw it.
“You don’t forget this guy grabbing you!,” she told CBS.