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Military Veteran Photographer Cherishes JFK Photo

A White Haven area man got to personally photograph President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady just a year before the assassination.

Foster Township, Luzerne County -- To look at Ivan Hambley's body of work as a military photographer is simply astounding. He was there to photograph the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. He was the man with the camera who captured Admiral Chester Nimitz signing the 1945 peace treaty aboard the U.S. Battleship Missouri.  But the picture he cherishes the most is one that did not come in the line of duty. "I hit the jackpot."

Then an Army Master Sergeant, Hambley requested to receive a picture from the White House of JFK for Hambley's recruiting office desk in Towanda. Instead, President Kennedy invited the nation's top military recruiter to the White House to personally take the photograph. It's a stunning black and white photo of John and Jackie Kennedy looking off camera. "I was allowed one shot. Only one shot," said Hambley. "With this camera and that is real pressure."

Hambley was told to stand on a particular spot. He raised his then state of the art Speed Graphic camera and captured a moment of Camelot. Hambley was startled by what happened next. "After I photographed the president, he said to me 'Thank you MSGT Ivan Patrick Hambley'. Well, when he said Patrick, I could have fell over on the floor."

Hambley continued a 28-year-military highly decorated career that included receiving two purple hearts and a bronze star. But when it comes to his impressive collection of photographs during his military service, it's the one this Altoona native took that day in 1962 that he'll always remember. "To have this privilege for the President of the United States to invite you to the White House and to photograph him and to have that photograph to pass onto my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, what have you, it's really something."

Hambley keeps the JFK photograph in a satchel to prevent the photo from fading. When he first took the picture in 1962, he was prevented from giving a copy to anyone for 25 years. To this day, Hambley still holds the only one.

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