No doubt you've seen the popular scene of the Shriner carrying the handicapped girl (pictured left). What many people don't know is that it is based on an actual event in 1970. It is Randy Dieter's original photo of Shriner Al Hortman (formerly of Evansville, Indiana, now living in Georgia), carrying a girl named Bobbi Jo Wright. The older girl on the left in the photo is Hortman's daughter, Laura, who was a patient at Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. After Laura began receiving treatment at Shriners Hospitals For Children, Hortman himself joined the Shrine.
The photo known as the "Editorial Without Words" is probably one of the best recognized symbols of Shriners Hospitals, yet it was taken almost by accident. Randy Dieter, the photographer, recalled that in 1970, he had been on assignment covering Hadi Temple's annual outing for handicapped children at the now-defunct Mesker Amusement Park in Evansville, Indiana.
"I was taking shots of the midway and was using my telephoto lens," Dieter said. "I saw a local Shriner walking by carrying a little girl in one hand and her crutches in the other. My camera wouldn't fire. Then they were too close for my lens. I ran past them, but the camera jammed. I had to take my last shot as they walked by. It was the end of the roll. If I had to think about it, I wouldn't have come up with something like that. Fate guides you."
"It still seems unreal," said Bobbi Jo Wright, the little girl in the photo. "I have many wonderful memories of the years I was a patient at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital and remember all the fun activities. I was born with cerebral palsy, which resulted in many orthopedic problems that made walking difficult. I had many surgeries at the St. Louis Hospital. They greatly improved my ability to walk."
Bobbi Jo received her B.A. in English from Anderson University. She is active in her church and teaches Sunday School. "I use a cane when I go shopping," she said. "If I'm walking on grassy areas, I use crutches."
Today, the famous photo is an integral part of the Shriners Hospitals logo, and has been reproduced on stained-glass windows, mosaics, tie tacs, pins, and in statues. A larger-than-life replica of the "Editorial Without Words" stands outside the International Shrine Headquarters building in Tampa. Photographer Randy Dieter presently serves as graphics editor for the Kentucky Post.
NOTE: Noble Albert Lanier Hortman, the man in the photo carrying Bobbi Jo, passed away on December 6, 2009, two months shy of his 81st birthday. He lived a full life and was one of the fortunate ones to make a place in history that will live in time immemorial. You can read Noble Albert Lanier Hortman's complete obituary here: