Pam Sommers

I first met Arnold when Taschen was publishing a monograph of his portraits.

I was just starting out in publicity, and was nervous about meeting such a famous photographer who had shot every president in the White House since Eisenhower.

Well, it took all of about 4 minutes for my trepidation to evaporate when I found, instead of an hauteur, a grandfatherly, down-to-earth mensch with a twinkle in his eye. The deal was sealed when we mounted the studio stairs to his office and he, being old school, insisted that I precede him. Half way up, I turned and remarked to him that I knew full well he sent me up ahead, not because he was a gentleman but so he could get a good look at my legs. My cheekiness, and not entirely off-the-mark observation won me a place in Arnold's heart that I know I held for the rest of his days.

I traveled with Arnold to Washington where he insisted that I join him in the Oval Office to give President Clinton a copy of his new book. Old hat for him perhaps, but certainly a thrilling experience for me! My husband and I were invited to a decoration ceremony for Arnold at the French Institute of Culture, and we were as proud as if he were a member of our own family. I always considered Arnold my honorary grandfather because he was as loving and warm, and almost as important to me as my own had been. His home was a haven filled with love and the history of the amazing life he shared with Gus and I always felt spiritually restored after a visit with them.

Arnold and I had the regrettable experience of bonding over our respective mate's health difficulties when my husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We saw Arnold and Gus as often as we could, for brunches at each other's homes, and occasionally for a meal out. Neither of us wanted to burden the other with our own tsuris so we didn't talk for a few months, but when my husband's condition worsened I reached out to let Arnold know.

He came to Peter's memorial service last February, and I couldn't have been more moved or more honored. It was mere days later that I learned of his own illness, and it makes me very sad that the service was the last time I saw Arnold. I cried at his funeral for the loss of this remarkable man, who managed to create a stupendous body of work over decades, while having a wonderful life with his great love, in which he felt blessed by his boys, and each of their families. His life seemed to me, a perfect balance of fulfilling and important work, beloved family, and genuine appreciation for the gifts his life had given him.

Knowing him was one of the gifts my life has given me.

Pam Sommers

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