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Mary Ann Vecchio speaking at Kent State University in May 2009

Mary Ann Vecchio meeting John Filo at Kent State University, May 2009

File:Kent State massacre.jpg

Original version of John Filo's iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller after he was shot by the National Guard.

Mary Ann Vecchio (born December 4, 1955) was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by photojournalism student John Filo in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970.

The photograph shows the 14-year-old Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller, who had been shot by the Ohio National Guard moments earlier. Vecchio had joined the protest while visiting the campus, where she had befriended two of the other students who were hit by gunfire that day: Sandra Scheuer, who was killed; and Alan Canfora, who was wounded. Other photographers also captured the scene from other angles.


Vecchio was a runaway from Opa-locka, Florida, where she attended Westview Junior High School. She bartered her story after the shootings to a local reporter in exchange for a bus ticket to California. She was found by police before she boarded the bus, and sent back to her family, who reportedly later sued T-shirt companies for 40% of the profits of sales featuring Filo's photograph. Following Filo's 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.[1]

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.

In 1995, Vecchio met John Filo for the first time, when both were scheduled to appear at an Emerson College conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the shootings.[2] 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.[3] 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 speaking on the allusions to the present state of the country.

Vecchio has been portrayed in several stage performances about 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 about Vecchio titled "For Mary Vecchio, August, 1973" [copyright 1973 in Canticum Novum; rpt. Folk Concert: Changing Times (Cochran GA: Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), p. 32]. The poem portrays Vecchio as a modern Mary praying for the fallen Kent State students.

When published, the photograph was retouched to remove the distracting fencepost over Vecchio's head in the original image. The unretouched original was stored in the archives of Life magazine.[4]


  1. "Kneeling With Death Haunted a Life". May 6, 1990. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 
  2. Brozan, Nadine (1995-04-25). "Chronicle" (hosted at The New York Times. p. B4. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  3. Kent May 4 Center
  4. "Ethics". Michigan Press Photographers Association. Archived from the original on 2003-08-13. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 

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