An award-winning photographer for The Dispatch, Neal Lauron spent a week in Manhattan just after Sept. 11, 2001, visually sharing the horrors he saw with readers back home. He photographed floods and fires and shootings with the same commitment and passion as he did shooting football games and parades.
The four-time Ohio News Photographer Association Clip Photographer of the Year (2011, 2008, 2005, 2001) who also won numerous Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists awards, died Thursday night at his Grove City home surrounded by family.
He photographed U.S. presidents, local families, daredevils, celebrities, celebrations, food and fashion and funerals.
Lauron’s devotion to his craft was eclipsed only by his devotion to family and faith, those who knew and worked with him said.
“He was like a marine,” said Doral Chenoweth III, a long-time Dispatch photographer. “He would take on any assignment and do what was asked of him without questioning it. He did that for years.”
When asked to go somewhere, he’d respond “You call it. I’ll haul it,” recalled Chenoweth.
“He took off when everyone else was running away,” recalled Tom Dodge, a retired Dispatch photographer of Lauron’s trip to New York City. “I remember he put on a fireman’s coat and got onto the (Ground Zero) site. He did incredible coverage.”
Lauron was diagnosed with kidney cancer about a year ago, a shock to those who knew him as a fitness buff and the epitome of health.
Ronnie Bianco, a former Dispatch freelance photographer, became close friends with Lauron, shooting numerous high school football games together.
“He was an incredibly gifted sports photographer,” said Bianco.
One example was Lauron’s Jan. 4, 2003 picture of Ohio State University running back Maurice Clarett diving into the end zone, his arm outstretched with the ball to score the winning touchdown in a 31-24 National Championship win over the University of Miami.
“This photo hangs in every man cave in Buckeye Nation,” said Chenoweth.
Lauron left The Dispatch to spend more time with his wife Elizabeth and sons Daniel and Zachary.
Family was his priority, driven by his religious faith, said Bianco.
“I think God put him in the positions he was in, all of these challenging and tragic places … because he had this calming effect on people.”
That deeper calling and faith likely helped him through his own battle, said Bianco.
“He had fully accepted it. He had no regrets. He was good with it and he knew where he was going to be,” said Bianco.
Funeral arrangements are pending.