‘My Florence’: A Love Story In Pictures

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By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — This is a love story captured in pictures.

As couples try to capture that perfect gift, choose that precise Hallmark sentiment, and pray that the roses don’t freeze on Valentines Day, there is this:

It’s the making of memories together that shows what it means to truly be in love.

Art Shay met Florence Gerson at summer camp in 1942, when they were 20-year-old counselors.

Shay, a renowned photographer whose work has appeared in Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated, took his first picture of her there in the Catskills and didn’t stop for almost 70 years.

“My Florence” is a photographic project currently on exhibit at Columbia College.

It is clear from the photos that Florence loved being a mother, adored music and books.

Florence owned a bookstore Titles Inc. in Highland Park for many decades. Her clients ranged from famous Chicagoans to everyday folk.

One sees passion and joy on her face–and she didn’t seem to mind the camera one bit.

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And she loved Art Shay, until the day she died in August 2012. They were married for 67 years.

There is one photo, it’s a private moment showing Florence, with her young daughter.

What’s especially beautiful about the moment is that it is something every mother knows.

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During those nearly 70 years, there were errands to run.

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Holidays to celebrate.

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Children to embrace.

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And grandchildren, too.

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A private concert to attend with friend, Billy Corgan.

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And finally, there is this, a single candle burning after Florence died.

She was 90 years old.

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The Shays love story, however, like the flame is eternal.

“She was no longer able to speak above a whisper, but she said to me, ‘I have had 90 wonderful years,'” Art Shay told the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan in 2012.

“Nearly 70 of those years were wonderful for me too. She was the most joyous and joy-bringing person I have ever known.”

An opening reception for “My Florence” will be held at the Columbia College Chicago Library, 624 S. Michigan Ave., on Thursday from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Art Shay will be in attendance. The exhibit runs through May 24.

It just might make a pretty good date night.

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