Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
September 10, 2016 04:30 PM

Greta Zimmer Friedman – the nurse who was famously kissed by a sailor in one of the most iconic photographs on the 20th century – died Thursday in Virginia at the age of 92, according to several reports.

Her son, Joshua Friedman, confirmed the news of his mother’s passing to NBC and CBS, saying she died of pneumonia which she developed at an assisted living facility where she lived for the past two years.

The kiss was captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt on Aug. 14, 1945 – the day Japan surrendered to the Allies. Published in LIFE magazine a few weeks later, the shot went on to become the symbol for the end of World War II.

But Zimmer Friedman’s role in the photo was not planned.

Then a 21-year-old dental assistant living in New York, she wandered into Times Square while on break to see whether the rumors of Japan’s surrender were true, The New York Daily News reported. President Harry S. Truman had not yet made the official announcement of Japan’s surrender, but people appeared to be flooding the New York streets in celebration.

As she entered Times Squaret, 22-year-old sailor George Mendonsa grabbed her and kissed her.

“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” Friedman told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller in 2012.

George Mendonsa
Patrick Raycraft/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images

Their identities remained unknown over the years, as several men and women claimed to be the couple. But authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria used forensic analysis and photographic interpretation to determine Mendonsa and Zimmer Friedman’s as the official pair.

Zimmer Friedman and Mendonsa, now 93, had met again in 1980, when LIFE set out an open call to determine the identities of the kissing couple. They reunited in 2012 for CBS News, after Galdorisi and Verria’s book, The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II, published.

“I realized the photo means a lot to so many people,” Zimmer Friedman told NBC News. “My mother always felt like it wasn’t anything she did – it was something that happened to her.”

Ironically, Mendonsa was on a date with another girl at the time of the his kiss with Zimmer Friedman. That woman – Rita Petry – would go on to marry Mendonsa. The two live in Middletown, Rhode Island – roughly 180 miles northeast of Times Square, CNN reports.

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As for Zimmer Friedman, the Daily News reports she would go on to study costuming at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop before marrying doctor Mischa Mitty Friedman in 1956.

The two moved to Maryland where they had two children – son Joshua and daughter Mara.

Joshua says she’ll be laid to rest next to her husband at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He had served as a general infantry in the military, and died in 1998.

“She’ll be put in there next to him,” her son told NBC News. “It seems fitting.”

Neither Joshua nor Mara could be reached for comment.

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