The sailor shown kissing a woman in New York's Time Square in an iconic photo that captured the ecstatic celebrations at the end of World War II died Sunday in Rhode Island, according to family members.
George Mendonsa was two days short of his 96th birthday when he died at an assisted living facility in Middletown.
Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, told the Providence Journal her 95-year-old father had fallen and had a seizure before he was pronounced dead. He lived at the facility with his wife of 70 years.
Mendonsa was shown kissing a woman he never met, Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse's uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945. Known as V-J Day, it was the day Japan surrendered to the United States. People spilled into the New York City streets to celebrate the news.
The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt was first published in Life magazine and is called "V-J Day in Times Square," but is known to most as "The Kiss." It became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century and is a popular image used on posters.
Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, but it took facial recognition technology before Mendonsa and Friedman were finally confirmed to be the couple.
When he was honored at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa shared details about the kiss, according to WPRI-TV.
"I saw what those nurses did that day when we had the wounded on my ship and we put the wounded on the hospital ship," he said at the time. "And of course, I saw what those nurses did that day and now back in Times Square the war ends, a few drinks, so I grabbed the nurse."
Mendonsa served on a destroyer during the war and was on leave when the end of the war was announced.
In a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project, Friedman said that it wasn't her choice to be kissed.
"The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed," she told the Library of Congress at the time.
"I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight, and I'm not sure I -- about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating," she said. "But it wasn't a romantic event. It was just an event of 'thank God the war is over' kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign."
Mendonsa's family has not yet made funeral arrangements. Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at the age of 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.