September 2011
August 31, 2011

Rick Flemming, a tribute

Source: NYSUT United
Jon Richard Flemming

Jon Richard Flemming

Jon Richard Flemming, an essential member of NYSUT's Communications team for decades, died July 13 at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany after a valiant battle with a long illness.

He will be remembered as an experienced labor photographer and designer, and as a family man whose deep devotion to his wife, Anne, and their four children was apparent to all who knew him.

Known as "Rick" to his colleagues, he retired from NYSUT in 2010 after more than 35 years of service in design, computer graphics and photography. At a NYSUT Board of Directors meeting, held in conjunction with an exhibit honoring Rick's union work on the occasion of his retirement, NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi paid tribute to him, saying: "Rick's career as a dedicated union designer and photographer produced a body of work that captures the vibrant spirit of NYSUT almost from its inception to the present day."

That work, Iannuzzi said, "will live on forever as a pivotal element of NYSUT's history."

As a graphic artist in Communications, Rick brought his creativity to bear on NYSUT's member publications, from ad campaigns, to posters and much more. His service spanned decades of radical change in graphic art, and Rick evolved with the changing times, moving from an era of "clip art" and rubber cement to creating work entirely on a computer.

Similarly, his photo work advanced from the days of film photography to a digital era, with Rick leading the way in the use of a digital camera that revolutionized coverage of NYSUT Representative Assemblies (RAs).

He may have been best remembered as NYSUT's go-to photographer, where he brought a sharp focus to more than three decades of RAs and countless rallies and news events. His iconic photo of Al Shanker at the keyboard, below, captured the legendary labor leader in a special moment, and Al's family always said it was one of their favorite photos of the late American Federation of Teachers' president.

Rick went to any length to photograph members in action. Once, at a NYSUT rally in New York City, he climbed onto a truck to get a great angle for a mammoth photo that ended up wrapped around the front and back covers of New York Teacher.

He worked for NYSUT from its earliest days, where he traveled the state with then-President Tom Hobart and captured photos showing the growth of a union. As a native of Newburgh, Rick especially enjoyed it when work assignments took him back to his hometown.

Rick's pride and joy in his family was apparent to all who knew him. He and his wife, Anne, a NYSUT member and teacher at Ichabod Crane Central School in Columbia County, have four children: John Thomas Buckley, Peter Joseph William, Laura Anne, and Michael Patrick Richard. Rick loved to share stories and photos of his children, and his colleagues shared his enjoyment of their growth and progress. His wife, Anne, says of her husband: "He loved life, and he fought to the end."