By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 2009
Jack Kightlinger, 77, a White House staff photographer for 19 years, died in a Sept. 14 auto accident near Hendersonville, N.C. His wife, Adele Kightlinger, 77, a former nursing instructor at Quantico Naval Hospital, who also was in the car, died the next day at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C.
Their car was hit head-on by a sport-utility vehicle that crossed the center line of the road, police told the Associated Press.
The Kightlingers, natives of Meadville, Pa., who most recently lived in Flat Rock, N.C., were Washington area residents from 1967 to 1988.
Mr. Kightlinger, who served in the Army Signal Corps in the Korean War, was an official White House photographer during five administrations, from Lyndon B. Johnson's to Ronald Reagan's. He shot behind-the-scenes photos, including images of Richard Nixon in the White House bowling alley and an exhausted Johnson listening to an audiotape from his son-in-law, Charles S. Robb, while Robb served as a Marine in Vietnam.
A photo Mr. Kightlinger took of a young boy handling several pythons wrapped around his body during a state trip that Patricia Nixon made to Africa in 1971 especially delighted the former first lady, Mr. Kightlinger told the Hendersonville Times-News in a 2005 interview.
His most recognized photograph was a 1981 portrait of Reagan that was used as a model for a 2005 postage stamp painted by Michael J. Deas.
"The light looked so good, I just took out my telephoto lens and started taking some nice head shots," Mr. Kightlinger told the North Carolina newspaper. "He had such a gleam in his eye, it just sparkled. It was just a great shot."
He retired in 1985. The current White House photographer, Pete Souza, called him a mentor and "the dean of the former official White House photographers," who was able to capture the unguarded, telling moments of five different presidents.
"I think it says a lot of about Jack that four chief photographers kept him on, in both Democratic and Republican administrations," Souza said. "He was just a gentleman, someone you would totally trust."
Mrs. Kightlinger, a graduate of her hometown city hospital's nursing school, attended Allegheny College in Meadville. She worked as a registered nurse and nursing instructor, including 12 years at the Quantico Naval Hospital. While her husband traveled with presidents, she raised their children and kept the household running. She retired from nursing in the early 1980s.
They lived for about a decade in Dale City in a home they rehabilitated, and then they bought property in Prince William County's Graham Park Shores, near Dumfries. The couple built a pond, which attracted whistling swans, stocked the water with bass and added a purple martin house so that the mosquito-loving birds would take care of any insect problem, said an article in The Washington Post in 1988.
Survivors include three children, Kathleen Freeman and Kimberly Fellrath, both of Charlotte, and Kirk Kightlinger of Purcellville; and four grandchildren.