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Effort under way to preserve San Diego waterfront sculpture of iconic woman and sailor after WWII ended

SAN DIEGO - An effort is under way to preserve a sculpture on San Diego's waterfront depicting an iconic photo of a woman embraced in a kiss with a sailor in Times Square on the day World War II ended.

The woman, Edith Shain, died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 92.

Allan Tait, public art project manager for the Port of San Diego, said a nonprofit group has been formed to try to raise funds to possibly acquire the ''Unconditional Surrender'' sculpture, or a more permanent version of it, and donate it to the port.

The 25-foot-tall sculpture is on loan with the Port of San Diego only through the end of August.

After that, Tait said its future is uncertain.

''I don't know if it will be here after August 31st,'' Tait said. ''I assume at some point the owners will want it back.''

The sculpture, which is located adjacent to the USS Midway Museum off Harbor Drive, is made from a foam core with a urethane outer layer that will not hold up to the weather forever, Tait said.

''It's getting to the point it would need to be refurbished if it is outdoors longer,'' he said.

The sculpture, by artist J. Seward Johnson, is owned by the Santa Monica- based Sculpture Foundation, according to Tait.

The port's public art committee is scheduled to discuss the future of the sculpture at a July 21 meeting.

Tait said Shain was in San Diego in 2007 to dedicate the sculpture. The retired nurse was back in January for an event aboard the Midway to promote a celebration in Times Square this summer to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II.

He described Shain as ''very lively.''

''I am very sad to hear she passed away,'' Tait said.

On Aug. 14, 1945, Shain was a nursing student working at Doctor's Hospital in New York City when radio networks announced the surrender of the Imperial Forces of Japan.

She recalled later that she made her way to Times Square, and allowed a strange man in a Navy uniform swoop her into his arms.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstadt captured the moment. The photo made a special section of Life magazine, and the scene instantly became part of American history.

Shain kept her identity secret until she wrote a letter to Eisenstadt in the late 1970s, revealing she was the woman in his photo.

Born in Tarrytown, N.Y. in 1918, Shain graduated from New York Doctors Nursing School in 1947. She taught kindergarten for 30 years and also worked as a night shift nurse before retiring in Los Angeles.

She is survived by two sons, six grandchildren and eight great- grandchildren. Funeral services for Shain are pending, according to her family.


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