Mary Ann Vecchio

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Mary Ann Vecchio
Mary Ann Vecchio speaking at Kent State University in May 2009
Born (1955-12-04) December 4, 1955 (age 62)
Palermo, Sicily

Mary Ann Vecchio (born December 4, 1955) is one of two subjects in the Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph by photojournalism student John Filo during the immediate aftermath of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970.

The photograph depicts the 14-year-old Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller, who had been fatally shot by the Ohio National Guard moments earlier. Vecchio had joined the protest while visiting the campus, where she befriended two of the other students hit by gunfire that day: Sandra Scheuer, who was killed, and Alan Canfora, who was wounded in the right wrist.[1]

Other photographers captured the scene from other angles. A modification of the photograph was painted by Victor Kalin as cover art for a 12-inch vinyl phonograph record Murder at Kent State, released by Flying Dutchman Records in 1970. The painting makes a cultural statement by adding a National Guard unit in the background. Written commentary by Nat Hentoff places the incident in a context of national malaise.[2]


Vecchio was an Italian immigrant and runaway from Opa-locka, Florida, where she attended Westview Junior High School. After the shootings, she bartered her story to a local reporter in exchange for a bus ticket to California. She was found by police before boarding the bus and sent back to her family, who reportedly later sued T-shirt companies for 40 percent of the profits from sales of apparel featuring Filo's photograph. Following publication of the photograph through the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review satellite paper Valley Daily News and its subsequent pickup internationally, Florida governor Claude Kirk labelled Vecchio a dissident communist.[3] After Vecchio married Joe Gillum in 1979, the couple moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Vecchio became a clerk at a coffee shop. She later studied massage therapy and is employed as a respiratory therapist.

Mary Ann Vecchio meets with John Filo at Kent State University in May 2009, thirty nine years after the shootings.

In 1995, Vecchio and John Filo met for the first time, when both were scheduled to appear at an Emerson College conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the shootings.[4] She also appeared at Kent State University in May of the same year for the 25th annual commemoration. She returned to Kent State University again for the 36th commemoration in May 2006 and for the 37th commemoration in May 2007.[5] She spoke at the 39th commemoration in May 2009, where she again met John Filo, their first meeting on the Kent State University campus. Vecchio also appeared at the 40th commemoration, drawing allusions to the present state of the country.[citation needed]

Vecchio has been portrayed in several stage performances depicting the Kent State shootings. The character Vekeero in Halim El-Dabh's 1971 Opera Flies is based on Vecchio. Her role was played by Kelley Lepsik in the 2000 performance of Kent State: A Requiem. Janet Ruth Heller published a poem entitled "For Mary Vecchio, August, 1973," which portrays Vecchio as a modern Mary praying for the fallen Kent State students.[citation needed]

Before being published, the photograph was retouched to remove the distracting background fencepost that appeared over Vecchio's head in the original image. The unretouched original was stored in the archives of Life magazine.[6]


  1. ^ Times, Special To the New York (1977-10-20). "Kent State Protester Is Recalled From Ohio Council". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  2. ^ Thomas W. Becker, A Season of Madness: Life and Death in the 1960's(2007) Chapter 9
  3. ^ "Kneeling With Death Haunted a Life". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 6, 1990. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  4. ^ Brozan, Nadine (1995-04-25). "Chronicle" (hosted at The New York Times. p. B4. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  5. ^ "Kent May 4 Center, Kent State tragedy, May 4, 1970, Home". Retrieved 2018-02-22. 
  6. ^ "Ethics". Michigan Press Photographers Association. Archived from the original on 2003-08-13. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 

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