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Remembering Leonard Ignelzi Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

4 May 2022

Leonard Ignelzi, who photographed Hall of Famers, wildfires and other major events for over 37 years for the Associated Press in San Diego, died Friday in Las Vegas from cerebral amyloid angiopathy. He was 74.

Ignelzi was famous for being in the right place at the right time. But it wasn't luck. It was his research, indefatigable work ethic and undeterred determination.

Sally Buzbee, executive editor of the Washington Post, said, "He knew instantly what was important, how to chase it, how to get it, how to show it and tell it. And he was insanely, fabulously, over-the-top competitive. I learned a huge amount just watching him work, seeing how he attacked stories." Buzbee worked with Ignelzi as AP's San Diego correspondent in the 1990s and was AP's executive editor from 2017 to 2021.

'He knew his town, he knew the story, and he knew how to tell it with a camera.'

J. David Ake, assistant managing editor and director of photography at the AP, added, "More than just a natty-dressed, cigar-smoking, photographer extraordinaire, he was one heck of a newsperson. He knew his town, he knew the story, and he knew how to tell it with a camera."

Sports and breaking news were his beat.

He haunted the Padres and Chargers games until retiring in 2016. He caught Tiger Woods as his putt tied the 2008 U.S. Open. He was there when Magic Johnson celebrated the 1992 Dream Team's Olympic win.

In 1984, he hid in the bushes to cover a gunman's assault on a San Diego McDonald's that killed 21 people. He covered immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego. He followed firefighters into the 2003 San Diego wildfire, transmitting images from his car when the phone towers had burned down.

But Lenny, as he was known, was uncomfortable about his images showing human suffering. "Maybe that's why sports is a good thing, in that it's more positive," Ignelzi said in 2014. "I mean, one team loses but it's sports. It's not the end of the world."

Golf was a big part of his life. For years he ran a tournament to raise money for the disabled. He had been inspired by a friend's daughter with Down's syndrome.

He even braved the attempt to teach then Padre manager Bruce Bochy the game. "He spent some time with me because he loved it and he was a good golfer," Bochy said. "He finally told me, 'I'm beginning to think you're uncoachable.'"

Ignelzi is survived by his wife Bobbi, sisters Lucy Whiting and Rosemary Thuet and their families. He was preceded in death by a brother, Joseph.

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