Coersin ura katkesi yhtäkkiä hänen sairastuttuaan borrelioosiin. Hän taisteli vuosikausia taudin tuomia komplikaatioita vastaan mutta joutui luopumaan työstään vuonna 1989. Hänen näkökynsä, voimansa - kaikki mitä hän tarvitsi kuvaajan työssään - heikkenivät. Hänen sairautensa oli vuosikausia diagnosoimatta. Tauti diagnosoitiin vuonna 1988, noin neljä vuotta oireiden alkamisesta (kasvohalvaus, krooninen fatiikki, voimakkaat nivelkivut ja tulehdukset). Coers kuoli sairauden seurauksena.
March 20, 2007
Michael Coers, known for striking photos in C-J and Times, dies
Busing shot helped staff win Pulitzer
By Paula Burba
Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael Coers, whose shot of a
black student and white student shaking hands on the first day of
court-ordered busing in 1975 became a touchstone image of that
turbulent school year, was found dead of natural causes Sunday at
his Louisville home. He was 62.
The photo, taken at what had been all-white Greenwood Elementary
School, was among those that earned The Courier-Journal and
Louisville Times photo department the Pulitzer Prize the following
year. It is the only Pulitzer given to the newspapers for
"That really was one of the iconic images" of busing in Louisville,
C. Thomas Hardin, former Courier-Journal director of photography,
said yesterday of the photo inside the classroom, empty except for
the two boys.
Among Coers' many honors was the National Press Photographers
Association's Humanitarian Award. He received it in 1985 for
performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation "at the request of the EMT
team to revive a 77-year-old woman who collapsed during a heat wave"
as Coers was on assignment, riding with an emergency medical crew,
according to a description accompanying the award.
"He was never one to blow his own horn, that's for sure," former
newspaper photographer R.D. Firkins said yesterday, "He was pretty
quiet about the awards that he got."
Hardin praised Coers' skills, recalling working alongside Coers as
he shot for the old Sunday Magazine and for the daily paper in
December 1970, when both covered the explosion that killed 38 miners
in two Finley Coal Co. mines near Hyden, Ky.
During his 23 years on the staff, Coers' assignments would include
four mine disasters, the 1974 tornadoes and the 1981 sewer
"He was on the scene of lots of disasters, fires and killings. He
liked excitement," former Courier-Journal columnist John Filiatreau
said yesterday. "He loved meeting people like coroners, police
detectives and hit men. â?¦ He had a real fascination with criminal
behavior, loved to talk to the bad guys."
"He could talk his way into and out of a lot of things," Firkins
said, recalling one assignment Coers had talked his editors into.
"I believe it was the Blue Angels," he said, that Coers had arranged
to ride with, taking pictures as a passenger inside one of the
fighter jets as the group did formations.
"He was gung-ho about everything," Firkins said.
It was Coers' enthusiastic work for the features department that
earned him his "Cecil B. Coers" nickname -- an allusion to his
fondness for getting the implausible shot, not unlike film director
Cecil B. DeMille's vision, according to former features editor Greg
"As a photographer, Coers was an editor's dream," said Johnson, now
new-product development editor for The Courier-Journal. "No matter
what sort of hare-brained idea you'd have for a cover, Coers could
actually pull it off."
Johnson cited a cover shot for The Louisville Times' SCENE magazine
of a "kite's-eye view" looking down a string to the ground; he got
it by renting a helicopter.
"Once for a story about handguns, I told him it'd be cool if we
could have a cover photo of a bullet leaving the barrel and heading
directly toward the reader," Johnson said. Coers "figured out a way
to get the shot using mirrors. He blasted more than 15 mirrors to
smithereens, but he got the photo. As always."
Hardin, too, called Coers' "a whiz" at solving cover problems for
SCENE. "Week after week, he would come up with the solutions. â?¦ He
would work tirelessly."
"Coers' innovative cover photography was a hallmark of that
magazine, and it helped create a buzz about SCENE that made Saturday
the most popular day of the week for The Louisville Times," Johnson
Coers' career was cut short by Lyme disease. After several years of
struggling with complications from the disease, he left the paper in
"His vision, his strength - everything you need to be a photographer
was attacked," Filiatreau said.
The condition was undiagnosed for years because Lyme disease was not
identified until 1975 and most cases had been in states closer to
Lyme, Conn., where it was discovered.
Coers's ailment was not diagnosed until 1988, after about four years
of symptoms that included facial palsy, chronic fatigue and severe
joint pain and inflammation.
He was found dead in his home Sunday of natural causes, said his
former wife, June Clausen Coers, who had been there to visit and
called 911 when she couldn't get any response from him.
Coers was a native of Indianapolis and graduated from Holmes High
School in Covington, Ky., in 1962. He was hired as a staff
photographer for the Louisville newspapers soon after graduating
from Eastern Kentucky University, where he earned his bachelor's
degree in social science.
Coers also invented a darkroom-printing aide called the Enlarger
Mate, which was used for "burning" -- darkening -- photos, and
marketed it to the CIA and others, Firkins, said, until he sold the