Earlier this month, he underwent a heart procedure to eliminate his atrial fibrillation, but suffered a massive stroke. He was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome due to the damage of his brainstem, and is paralyzed from the mouth down. This columnist launched a Facebook fundraiser, and within days, 112 people contributed nearly $6,100 out of a $10,000 initial goal.
Funds will go toward supportive therapy, comfort care, and the prevention of systemic complications such as respiratory infections. Patients with locked-in syndrome have the ability to think. Kun may still have limited blinking capacity and vertical eye movements.
"We are going to give him the time he needs to communicate with us better,” said Sofia Monge, his wife and business partner. “Once a day, a family member is going to the hospital to see and talk to him and let him know that we have not abandoned him.
“I and of course Vic are so moved by the enormous love and support that our community has shown us,” she added. “That is why Vic loved Forest Hills so much. There are so many good people and wonderful memories. Vic is a survivor and did whatever he needed to make the business work!”
Monge explained that Kun's favorite word is “why?”
“He was innately curious about everything and especially how things worked,” she said. “The best part I loved about him was his generosity, kindness, and great sense of humor. Boy, did he love to make people laugh!”
Kun had a love for photography since childhood.
“He told many customers that when he was nine, he bought his first camera from Continental Photo,” Monge said. “Then at 35, he decided to have his own business and ended up buying Continental Photo.”
Monge recalls how they met.
“I was one of his customers,” she said. “I also loved photography from a young age and was doing freelance photo shoots, so I used to take my film there to be developed. We were talking one day, and I noticed a little sparkle in his eye. He asked me to have a drink with him, so I said sure. Our first date was at The Irish Cottage.”
August 7 marked their 26th anniversary.
“When we got married in 1994, I gave up my job to work in the store and help him run the business,” Monge added. “What made Continental Photo so successful is that we loved helping people. One day, a man asked Vic, ‘can you take a look at my electric shaver because it’s not working anymore?’ He fixed it and the man was so happy.”
Some residents felt inclined to donate despite never meeting him.
“While reading about the fundraiser, I knew he must be a special person,” said Adrienne Gelfand-Perine.
The same held true for Anna Djirdjirian.
“I’m so sorry I never met him and his wife, but I wholeheartedly pray for his speedy recovery,” she said. “I’m glad the community came together to help one of its own. It’s an honor to contribute for someone so loved and respected by all.”
Eric Schreiber remembers searching for someone who did digital transfers from old 16mm film reels and was pleased to find Kun.
“Both he and Sofia were honest that some of my films would likely be unsalvageable, but they were able to cull together about 45 minutes of footage,” he said. “It brought tears to the eyes of my 89-year-old aunt who was able to see a video of her Sweet 16 with her parents from 1947.”
Schreiber called the survival of Continental Photo despite the advent of new digital technologies “a testament to Vic’s technical expertise and high standards for customer satisfaction.”
“We were childhood friends at PS 144 in the early 1960s,” said Jerry Bezdikian, who recalls Kun living a half-block from the school on 69th Avenue. “Ironically, we both became commercial photographers. His first shop was located in an area alongside Lorilil Jewelers. When he moved to the mini-mall, I used to visit him often as my studio at the time was around the corner.”
“I remember how kind and accommodating they were, and it propelled me to visit years later to reframe a beautiful wedding picture of my dear mom,” said Heddy Schmidt. “They made such a nice impression with not only their professionalism, but their welcoming nature and warmth.”
Ron Caveglia began to patronize Continental Photo in the early 1990s.
“A fond memory is the many occasions when Vic rushed to my Forest Hills apartment, whenever I panicked after having created some technical catastrophe in my home computer system, which occurred numerous times due to my complete lack of electronic know-how,” he said. “Within minutes, he corrected whatever glitch needed to be solved. His reassuring nature and great sense of humor always put me at ease.
“Forest Hills needs you Vic,” Caveglia added. “Our town would never possess the pizzazz and welcoming spirit without you and Sofia manning your beloved local shop that we have all come to depend on and visit whenever we are making the rounds of Austin Street.”
In the 1980s, Marla Kleinman lived in Briarwood and made sure to travel the extra mile to Continental Photo.
“They would always talk to me like a friend from the neighborhood and explained the details about the celebrities in their photos and the interaction to take the shot,” she said. “My passport was done with the artistic expression of a fine portrait. They are artists who truly care about their craft.”
“Vic and Sofia stood out in my mind the first time we met in their old studio in the Continental Avenue gully,” said Meena Pandya, who considered it a go-to place for her photo needs. “They are a simple, down-to-earth, happy couple and I pray things turn out well and they are back to normal soon.”