Woman who says she was nurse from WWII photo dies

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Edith Shain, who claimed to be the nurse who was smooched by a sailor in Times Square in the famous Life magazine photograph marking the end of World War II, has died. She was 91.

Shain died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles of liver cancer, said her son, Michael Shain, of Conifer, Colo.

Another son, Robert Shain of Malibu, said his mother had just gotten off her shift at a hospital when she and a friend took the subway to Times Square on Aug. 15, 1945, to join a celebration of what became known as V-J Day (short for Victory over Japan).

The enduring photo shows a sailor in a dark uniform kissing a white-uniformed nurse he has bent backward in a clinch. Their faces are partially obscured.

The photo was snapped by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt but he never got the names of the sailor and nurse, and Life’s effort years later to identify the woman produced several claimants.

Shain said she never got the sailor’s name, either.

“I went from Doctors Hospital to Times Square that day because the war was over, and where else does a New Yorker go?” she said in 2008, when she donned a white nurse’s uniform again and was grand marshal of New York’s Veterans Day parade. “And this guy grabbed me and we kissed, and then I turned one way and he turned the other. There was no way to know who he was, but I didn’t mind because he was someone who had fought for me.”

“As for the picture,” she said, “it says so many things — hope, love, peace and tomorrow. The end of the war was a wonderful experience, and that photo represents all those feelings.”

After the war, Shain moved to California, where she continued nursing at night but also was a kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles for 30 years.

She attended Memorial Day parades around the country and was scheduled to be in Times Square in August for a celebration of V-J Day, Michael Shain said.

She also visited veterans homes and made a point of teaching youngsters about the war.

“She felt a real connection to the World War II veterans that were still alive. She did a lot to help memorialize their stories,” Michael Shain said. “She was very concerned that our current generation didn’t know enough … about the WWII veterans and their generation.”

“She saw her celebrity as a way to keep reminding people of the great sacrifices that we made during World War II,” he said.

Shain was born in Tarrytown, N.Y., on July 29, 1918.

In addition to Michael and Robert, Shain is survived by her son Justin Decker of Los Angeles, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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