My 90-year-old mancrush

Post by Jason Plotkin

I thought I’d never get out this funk.
I woke up Friday to hear about the horrific Colorado shootings in the movie theater which took multiple lives, including that of a 6-year-old.
I spent my entire morning covering the drowning of a 2-year-old boy.
Saturday was spent photographing the funeral of a fallen soldier.
On Sunday, I was inundated with information about the fall of the Joe Paterno statue.
Yesterday, the never ending tragic path that Jerry Sandusky blazed, continued with the NCAA slapping around Penn State with a series of sanctions.
I needed something positive to focus my energies on.
Something positive to focus my camera on.
Then I saw my mancrush.
Earlier yesterday, I noticed in my schedule I was covering the York County Gospel Choir.
I was excited.
I’m not generally a religious man, but I love a good Gospel choir. The positive energy that comes from covering these always puts me in a great mood.
But when I got there, I got an added bonus.
Voni Grimes was there.
He looked at me, extended his hand and said, “How are you doing, young man?”
The last couple of days melted away right there.
As usual, Voni was dressed to the nines, with a smile on his face and a harmonica in his hand.
I’ve photographed him multiple times over the years and am not afraid to admit that I have a mancrush on this 90-year-old York gentleman.
One of my favorite portraits I’ve ever taken was of Voni and his wife when they lived in the Yorktowne Hotel. He was flashing his typical smile and his wife had the most wonderful laugh. The reason they lived in a hotel at the time? He moved into that suite at the Yorktowne Hotel when he was 75 because blacks were not welcome at the old hotel when he was growing up and he vowed to live there one day. Unfortunately, this photo was taken over 15 years ago when I was working with the York Dispatch and even with the help of my friends over there, we can’t seem to find this photo.
Over his lifetime, Voni has tackled racism and adversity.
Not with anger, but with that smile on his face and a song in his heart.
In this story Mike Argento wrote about him, he talks about when he received a letter from the Ku Klux Klan after moving into what was considered a white neighborhood — he hasn’t a bitter bone in his body.
“I can’t change their attitude, and anything I can’t control or change, I can’t worry about,” he said. “I can’t worry about it. I can be concerned about it. But I can’t worry about it.”
His education took him from working on farms and hauling market baskets at the old City Market when he was a child to being a foreman at the now-defunct Cole Steel to being an administrator at Penn State-York. In addition a gym had been named after this WWII veteran.
He wrote a book, called Bridging Troubled Waters, which documents his life and I got to take another picture of him for the article. As an added bonus, the photo that was used on the cover of his book was one I had taken of him from a previous assignment where he was being honored by his church.



So yesterday I got to end my shift photographing the choir and got this photo of Voni singing.

Maybe you’re wondering why he’s not in the center of the photograph. Why I chose to place him to the right instead?
To be honest, over the years when I’ve covered events when Voni was there, I noticed he always seemed to be one of the photographs I came back with.
Playing harmonica at a veteran’s event.
Singing at a funeral.
Just smiling that Voni smile.
I framed up this image of him to perhaps avoid any cries of favoritism.
But who am I kidding?
I can’t hide my mancrush.

One Response to My 90-year-old mancrush

  1. STEPHANIE WEAVER says:

    TRULY WONDERFUL MAN. MET HIM WHEN I ATTENDED PENN STATE YORK. ALWAYS HAD A SMILE ON HIS FACE. TRUE INSPIRATION.

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is often more to say about a great photograph. The York Daily Record's award-winning visual staff offers a peek behind the lens and into the process of capturing, editing and publishing their most interesting photographs, video stories and more.
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