BEVERLY HILLS, Fla. -- Andrew Lopez, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and Medal of Freedom recipient who worked for United Press International for more than 40 years, died early today of cancer. He was 76.
Lopez slipped into a coma on Saturday after a long illness and died at home at about 3:30 a.m., his son, Andrew Lopez Jr., said.
Lopez captured journalism's most prestigious award for his dramatic photo taken Jan. 17, 1959, during the Cuban Revolution and depicting a kneeling man clutching a crucifix while a priest blessed him and gunmen waited to execute him.
Lopez was in Cuba for a year's assignment when Fidel Castro first came to power.
Lopez was born May 10, 1910, in Spain and came to the United States when he was 4.
He won the Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be bestowed on a citizen, for helping rescue several soliders who had been caught in a German trap in World War II. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower decorated Lopez with the award in 1947.
At the height of his career, Lopez, who taught himself how to take pictures with a box camera, worked as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II and his assignments included Italy, Normandy and Germany.
He specialized in sports photography later in his career and covered several World Series and hockey playoffs.
'Generally he was a quiet type of worker but thorough in his job,' said Ted Majeski, vice president and executive editor of UPI Newspictures. 'You could send him out on assignement and he would follow up.'
Lopez first worked for United Press as a 'dispatch rider' - running messages, film and correspondence from a news scene to the wire service's New York headquarters. He began working as full-time photographer in New York City, where he lived most of his life, in 1941.
He retired from UPI in July 1983 and moved to Florida with his wife of 53 years, Amy.
'He was a workaholic and loved his job,' Mrs. Lopez said. 'He had no other hobby in the world, just his work.'
The funeral was tentatively scheduled for this weekend at the O.B. Davis funeral home in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
Besides his wife and son, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, Lopez is survived by a daughter, Joan McKinnon of East Islip, N.Y., seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.