There’s a iconic photo taken on August 14, 1945 by the legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstadt. It is the day World War II ended, and the photo is called “The Kiss.” A young soldier in Times Square (We assume he is strong, handsome, possessed of all the traits necessary to have single-handedly beaten the Germans and the Japanese and the Italians) is kissing a young nurse (We assume she is beautiful, possessed of all the traits necessary to be both strong enough to have contributed to the war effort and soft enough to surrender to a young soldier’s muscled arms.) It is a photo that defines the euphoria at the end of a war and the beginning of a peace that would forever change a generation and a country.
In the 66 years since the photo was taken, it has appeared in newspapers, in magazines, in books, online. Countless millions of people have seen it. Although the photo shows a lot of people captured by Eisenstadt’s lens at that moment, these two are the focal point. It is impossible to look at the photo and see anything but them. It is impossible to know that just beyond them, the camera has captured an event-in-the-making that is far more memorable.
Fast forward to last Wednesday, June 22. The Flying Dog Café in Sarasota/Bradendon, FL. The Flying Dog has always had that photo on the wall. A lot of people look at it, including Sande, Life in the Boomer Lane’s son-in-law’s father. Except that day, Sande watched an elderly man walk over and lift the photo off the wall. The man came over to Sande and said, “I saw you looking at this photo. I’m the sailor in white, behind the one who is kissing the nurse.”
His name is Tom Bozza, captured walking behind the random pairing of two presumed strangers, caught up in the moment, captured for all time. When the photo came out, Bozza became famous among his friends. Then he became just another guy in the photo. A few days later, he stood in front of a Navy clerk, Elenore Haines, who executed his discharge papers. He fell in love with Elenore, in the way that young men who have been at war fall in love with love. He asked her out and she accepted. And then more dates followed. But the fantasy didn’t last much longer than it took Bozza to switch from a uniform to civilian clothes. They went their separate ways. They each got married. They each had lives.
Many years later, Haines’ husband died. She remembered the young sailor. She went online and found him in New York. She called him. Bozza had just become a widower. He told her he’d be on her doorstep in the morning. He flew to Bradenton. They fell in love. They moved in together.
Haines and Bozza are still in Bradenton. They are each 90 years old and live in a mobile home park. They are still in love. Sometimes they eat at the Flying Dog Cafe and look at the photo on the wall. Sometimes they visit the 26 foot statue of “The Kiss,” of the sailor kissing the nurse, that stands near Sarasota Bay. Haines likes to bring a copy of the photo with her to show tourists what the statue doesn’t: the young sailor who survived a war, fell in love, and found that love again 50 years later.