By Heather Graulich and Donald R. Winslow
WEST PALM BEACH, FL (April 23, 2015) – Mark J. Edelson, the multimedia director for The Palm Beach Post who was one of the most decorated and respected picture editors in the profession's history, died Thursday evening after a hard-fought, two-year battle with three different types of cancer. He was 64.
He is survived by his wife, Helen Travers, and their two adult children, Peter and Vaughn; his parents, Frances and Ira Edelson; his brother, Ron Edelson; and his sister, Ellen Edelson Bortz.
In lieu of flowers, the Edelson family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Mark J. Edelson Picture Editing Scholarship that will be administered by the National Press Photographers Foundation (www.nppf.org). Edelson was one of the Kalish Workshop's distinguished faculty members since 1998, where he supported the training and fostering of future storytelling visual editors and was known for his inspirational one-on-one teaching style.
A memorial service is planned for Sunday, April 26, 2015, at 3:30 p.m. EDT at the Levitt-Weinstein Chapel, 18840 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach, FL, and the family encourages everyone to attend.
Post presentation editor Jan Tuckwood, who worked alongside Edelson for more than 20 years, said that he was "a pure and brilliant soul."
"He's the only editor I've ever worked with – word editor or photo editor – who was driven solely and purely by telling the most powerful story. It's never been about ego with Mark, which is unusual in a person who's so incredibly talented. Mark never took his eye off the story, how images tell the story and play off each other, how words influence the visuals, how proportion matters. Mark put his very soul into every story he told."
Edelson joined the Post as a picture editor in 1993 after being the director of photography at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Before that he was a photographer, picture editor, and page designer for The Sun-Tattler in Hollywood, FL. After joining the Post, Edelson quickly became the lead picture editor or designer who worked with Post teams to earn hundreds of awards in contests such as Pictures of the Year International, Society for News Design, Best Of Photojournalism, and Best Use Of Photography. He was a 1980 graduate of the University of Miami with a communications degree.
Edelson was one of the most decorated picture editors in the profession's history. Over the course of a three-decade career he was named Picture Editor of the Year nine different times in various competitions. He was NPPA's Best Of Photojournalism Picture Editor of the Year in 2005 and 2013, and in addition he won numerous Best Of Photojournalism Awards over the years for his work at The Palm Beach Post. And in March he was awarded a Special Citation from NPPA for his significant contributions to advancing photojournalism.
Since 2005, Edelson chaired NPPA's Best Of Photography Quarterly Photo Editing contest, driving the effort to make the contest digital. In addition to chairing the contest, Edelson and the Post won many of the quarterly awards during the years, with Mark being named Editor of the Year five times.
In addition to his own award-winning work, over the years Edelson has been the picture editor for nine Regional Photographers of the Year.
His battle with cancer has been long and painful. Diagnosed with rare nodal marginal zone lymphoma in March of 2013, he spent the later part of 2013 and the first half of 2014 with fresh hope. He was in remission, and feeling strong enough that he had returned to the Post full time in September of 2013.
But in April of 2014, his oncologist noticed swelling in the lymph nodes of his groin, near the original cancer site, and ordered him to come back in June for a CT scan, a month earlier than usual. Edelson didn’t get the chance, though – his appendix ruptured the weekend of Father’s Day.
That emergency led to a delay of his next CT scan, and when it was done in September, the news wasn’t good. Not only had his original lymphoma returned, but he also now had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and b-cell lymphoma, the most aggressive of the three. His oncologist told him a few weeks later he had only one option left: a stem cell transplant.
Chemotherapy treatments to battle back the cancer in preparation for the transplant left him weak and feverish, and required multiple hospitalizations. But January 29, 2015, was a day for hope, when he finally underwent the stem cell transplant, receiving cells donated by his brother, Ron. It was nothing short of a small miracle – only 30 percent of family members are a stem cell match.
As his system struggled to accept the foreign – yet friendly – cells, he had to deal with graft-versus-host disease, which left him with sores throughout his gastrointestinal tract that made eating the smallest bite painful. Ultimately, he needed a feeding tube.
Since early December, Edelson had lived in near-isolation at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami, his fragile immune system shielded from all but a few health care workers, his family, and the occasional friend, everyone wearing masks and gloves to protect him as he fought off the three different cancers.
During this lengthy battle Edelson's family members cared for his every need and his daughter, Vaughn, recently raised more than $17,000 to fight cancer by riding in the Dolphins Cycling Challenge in February.