Through Pete Hohn’s camera lens, newspaper readers saw Rod Carew’s record-setting seventh steal of home plate and Harmon Killebrew’s 500th home run swing.
But they also saw teenagers make clutch free throws and score homecoming touchdowns.
Cletus “Pete” Hohn was especially proud of such slice-of-life photos during his 27 years as a photographer for the Minneapolis Tribune (now the Star Tribune). For seven consecutive years in the 1970s, his sports photography appeared in the “Best Sports Stories of the Year.”
Hohn, born on Christmas Day in 1927, died on July 4th at Lakeside Oasis hospice in Buffalo, Minn.
“Pete excelled under the tightest of deadlines,” said Darlene Prois, a fellow photographer who now lives in Hayward, Wis. “This was the pre-digital era, and we were working with black-and-white film, chemicals, darkrooms and prints those days, but I’d challenge any of today’s photographers to match his speed on deadline.
“Pete made a game of pushing how long he could shoot and still slap a wet print on an editor’s desk, minutes before deadline. And not just any print: His shots invariably were of a game-making play.”
One editor, Steve Ronald of Minneapolis, was on the receiving end of more than a few wet prints. But he also recalled Hohn’s fondness for the odd photo — say, an albino squirrel on a bird feeder. “He was always looking to produce something for the next day’s paper,” Ronald said.
Hohn was born in Sauk Rapids, Minn. He was 11 when his father died, and became a mainstay in the cafe his mother then opened.
After enlisting in the Marine Corps, he fought in the Pacific with the 1st Marine Airwing and served in Guam and China after the war ended. He was a lifelong member of the China Marine Association, the Marine Corps League Valhalla Detachment and the Sauk Rapids and Buffalo American Legions.
The GI Bill enabled him to attend St. Cloud State University and the University of Minnesota, where he was the first journalism graduate with a major in photography.
After two years with the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Hohn joined the Minneapolis Tribune, where he photographed Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Other famous subjects included Elvis Presley, Jack Benny, Louis Armstrong, Dolly Parton and the king of Sweden.
In 2014, his body of work was featured in an exhibition at the Northrup King Building.
A nephew, Patrick Michalicek of Buffalo, said his uncle most enjoyed photos that captured ordinary life. In fact, he said, one prize-winning photo in 1963 was one that Hohn would not look at, or talk about. It was a tragic photo of a young boy who died accidentally, the police officer trying to revive him, the parents hovering.
“It was a full story right there,” Michalicek said. “But he did not enjoy taking pictures of tragedy.”
Better his pursuit of the “Many Moods of the IDS,” documenting the new landmark for the Sunday Picture Magazine. Or becoming a Pied Piper of sorts when soccer first came to Minnesota. “Nobody else here knew how to shoot soccer, so other photographers would follow him around to get the right angle,” Michalicek said. “When he moved, they moved.”
Prois remembered Hohn as a champion of the growing number of female photographers. “He freely offered friendship, advice and challenges to beat him at his favorite deadline game,” she said. “None of us could.
“With his ever-present optimism and sense of humor, Pete made working fun.”
That optimism was tested when Hohn and his first wife, Lila Brown, had a son, Michael, who was injured in infancy and died at 16. For years, Hohn worked the night shift to help care for his son and for his wife, who had multiple sclerosis.
Pete met his second wife, Marilyn Hoegemeyer, at the Tribune, and they were married in 1986. For many years, Hohn enjoyed a cabin he designed on Fish Trap Lake near Little Falls, fishing for walleye and tracing his family history, getting as far back as the early 1700s in Germany.
Hohn is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and her two sons, Stephan Becerra of Omaha and Josh Becerra of St. Paul, and five grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery, Camp Ripley, Minn.