Thursday, March 14, 2013


The assistant warden took the above photo of Rick Nielsen, (left), myself, and Ron Kuntz, (right), inside Columbia C. I., outside Lake City, Florida, in 1999, when they came to the prison for the Bill Glass “Weekend of Champions” crusade. Ron focused his Nikon, then talked the assistant warden through centering the viewfinder, holding the camera steady, and slowly pressing the shutter button. Voila!

We are holding my copy of Rick’s and Ron’s book, “DOIN’ TIME,” that documents their many years of prison ministry work, filled with photos of famous Christian athletes and other dedicated men, along with the pen-and-ink drawing of Rick and Ron I created for them, that accompanied an essay Rick wrote about me.

Today I write about Ron Kuntz, a loyal, unrelenting friend and huge influence on me, who passed away in his sleep March 7, at home, at the age of 78.

Jack Murphy introduced me to Ron Kuntz at Zephyrhills C. I., in 1983, when the Bill Glass Crusade made a weekend stop there. Ron was an unassuming man wearing a beat up Australian bush hat with the side brim pinned up, and two or three Nikon 35 mm cameras hanging around his neck. I am an avid photographer before (and during) my imprisonment, and we made an immediate connection, and spent most of that day together talking about our lives, our faith, and cameras.

The Jaycee Photo Project was taking pictures for $1.50 each, and I asked Ron if he would pose for a photo with me. The photographer is rarely photographed. He smiled, glad to let me hold one of his cameras for the prop. I told him I would send him a copy when I got mine back in a week or so, and when I hadn’t sent his photo to him promptly, he wrote and reminded me that he was looking forward to his copy. I sent it. Over the years I sent him many photos, but he always sent me more, like this one.

You would never know it from the humble nature of the good man he was, but Ron Kuntz was a world-renowned photographer who documented many World Series, Superbowls, Olympics, championship boxing matches, Kentucky Derbies — if there was a sporting event or athlete he didn’t photograph, the subject didn’t warrant photographing. When Jack Murphy got out of prison, Ron Kuntz took him to the Kentucky Derby and let him snap the photo of the winner that appeared in newspapers worldwide. When the earthquake stopped the World Series in Candlestick Park, Ron was there. He sent me a postcard from the Sydney Olympics, where a lot of people wore bush hats like his.

If you were Ron’s friend, you had a friend for life. Ron wrote letters to governors and parole commissioners on my behalf, urging my release, for years, commiserated with me, encouraged me, and prayed for me. When Libby signed me up for e-mail at in 2001, Ron immediately began sending me nonstop messages as a member of an elite list of family and friends, sharing his Christian faith (and conservative Republican values), messages that ended only with his passing.

Ron dearly loved his family, and as an adopted member of that privileged group, I grieve for the passing of such a good man, but am secure in the belief that if they have cameras in Heaven, Ron will be telling God, “Say cheese!”

God bless you, old friend. We will miss you.

Charlie Norman

Rick Nielsen sent me a photo of Ron and him inside a building, and asked me to crate a pen-and-ink drawing based on the photo, but with a prison scene in the background. Okay. So I made an initial pencil sketch, and sent it to Rick for approval. He had on a plain shirt in the original photo, and asked if I could insert his “Blueprint For Life” logo. Okay. I was at Sumter C. I. at the time, went out to the rec field and made a sketch for the drawing’s background. Thousands of tiny dots with my Rapidograph pen later, this drawing resulted. Ron was very pleased, said it made him look like a character. I told him, “Ron, you are a character!”

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