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Editorial without Words


The Editorial without Words image is on many billboards, trucks and other signs for the Shriners Hospitals for Children and Shrine Centers.  The story it tells needs no explanation.  This story depicts a Shriner, wearing his fez, carrying a little girl in one hand and her crutches in the other.  You will see this image on many full size statues in front of Shriners Hospitals, Shrine Centers and International Shrine Headquarters.

Its origin is a real photograph taken in 1970 at an amusement park in Evansville, Indiana.  The little girl in the photo is Bobbi Jo Wright, who was born with cerebral palsy.  Her orthopedic problems were treated at St. Louis Shriners Hospital for Children, and Bobbi Jo went on to graduate from Anderson University in Indiana.

The Shriner carrying Bobbi Jo is Al Hortman, who became a Mason and a Shriner after his own daughter was treated at the St. Louis Hospital.  The image that was photographed by accident by a local newspaper photographer has been reproduced on pins, patches, shirts, statues, clothing, hats, and even stained-glass windows.

The photo known as the "Editorial without Words" is probably one of the best recognized symbols of Shriners Hospitals for Children, yet it was taken almost by accident.  Randy Dieter, the photographer, recalled that in 1970, he had been on assignment covering the local Shrine 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."

The Shriner who was unexpectedly immortalized carrying Bobbi Jo was Al Hortman.  Al Hortman's daughter, Laura, was a patient at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis.  After Laura began receiving treatment at Shriners Hospitals, Al Hortman joined the Shrine.

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