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Published: Sunday, 3/4/2012

Photographer of legendary picture dies

John F. Kennedy, Jr., salutes his father's coffin at the Cathedral of St. Matthew. John F. Kennedy, Jr., salutes his father's coffin at the Cathedral of St. Matthew.

WASHINGTON -- Stan Stearns, the photographer who took the iconic picture of John F. Kennedy, Jr., saluting his father's coffin during the slain president's 1963 funeral, died Friday of cancer. He was 76.

Mr. Stearns was assigned to cover Mr. Kennedy's funeral on Nov. 25, 1963, as a photographer for United Press International. He would later describe standing outside the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington and being squeezed into a roped-off area with 70 other photographers.

Through his telephoto lens, he watched as Jacqueline Kennedy leaned down to whisper to her son, who turned 3 that day.

Then the boy stepped forward and saluted. Mr. Stearns' camera clicked.

The salute lasted less than five seconds. Though television cameras captured the moment, it was Mr. Stearns' photo that became famous.

Mr. Stearns later said he learned other photographers missed the picture because they had focused on Jacqueline Kennedy or the president's coffin.

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