I’m not sure what it is about this time of year. One after another people leave us in the most brilliant time of year only to cast a shadow upon our lives forever. While Sunday 24 July brought an end to a memorable Tour de France, it also brought the news of the passing of one of the most influential journalists of our time – someone who influenced me personally – my friend, colleague and mentor George Ramos.
Thats George hugging the eagle in foyer at Times Mirror Square, downtown Los Angeles – and thats me with the camera. George was receiving another accolade and he asked me to photograph him. While I cannot remember at this moment the particular award, I can say, he had many – three Pulitzer Prizes, among other local and national awards. George was the first Chicano to win a Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Meritorious Public Service.
Yes he was accomplished but also accessible. What I mean by this is, he didn’t allow his achievements to create barriers or walls among his colleagues or community; quite the opposite he became all the more accessible, and open; especially to people like myself who were breaking into the corporate news business.
I suppose I could have photographed George anywhere. His desk, in the studio, you name it. However photographing him on top of the statue, beside the eagle, embracing the eagle, was the symbol, in my eye, that put him in the best light. Not just in professional stance, but also, in how I perceived him, respected him. Adored him. In awe of him.
In addition to his journalism career, George also served our country. I was elated when he joined the golden circle of hallowed Op-Ed writers at the paper.
I have fond memories of George, in what I would call true Angeleno moments. I would run into George, while driving my car on the 10 Freeway West. I would look at the lane and car next to me, and there would be George! I would laugh so hard! What??!! What are you doing here? We would roll down our windows and start talking over the honks and noise of the bumper to bumper, crawling pace traffic moving west toward the ocean. This happened a few times. See you next time, wave, and drive on.
During and after I left the paper George would come visit me at my Venice Beach apartment. He enjoyed the ocean air, sun and space. We’d sit outside on my rooftop deck laugh and talk and talk some more. His laughter, sense of humor, and trickster ways were contagious. We’d talk about everything under the sun, and more, but rarely about the paper. Life, art, politics, the state and stauts of Mexican-Americans in LA – this was his hearts calling. He was a friend, colleague, mentor. A brother, a shoulder I could rely on. Someone who would help this naïf navigate the corporate landscape.
Last Autumn, I caught wind that he was teaching at Cal Poly. Hmm, I thought to myself, I have to give someone a surprise visit. Unfortunately this time never came. There is no doubt that those who knew him loved him. I would venture to say that teaching at Cal-Poly suited him. He was a natural teacher. It was because of him I joined the California Chicano News Media Association and mentored up and coming photographers myself.
If you have read this far, take a moment and read the plaque in the photograph. George was a day in and day out treasure of the Fourth Estate. Please take a moment to honor him.
Photograph © Ana Elisa Fuentes. Scanned photo enlargement. Image originally recorded on Tri-X Black and White Film
Local TV Station KSBY tribute here
Text and photographs copyright Ana Elisa Fuentes