Photographer Ken Day Dies of Multiple Myeloma
By Joyce Mitchell
He was the quiet, humble photographer who stayed in the background. Now that he’s gone, he’s the man everyone is talking about.
Sacramento area Photographer Ken Day possessed a brilliant eye for visual storytelling, garnering him professional recognition along with several Emmy Awards. He fought a valiant five-year battle against an aggressive form of Multiple Myeloma. Monday, February 19, 2024, Day died from complications related to his treatment.
About two hours after hearing about his death, ABC Network News aired a tribute for the beloved videographer, calling him a member of the ABC family. Day freelanced decades for the network, working with correspondents, and Anchor David Muir, primarily while covering the west coast.
Along with ABC, Day accumulated hundreds of other clients, photographing everything from sensitive medical documentaries to fun short-form stories. Returning customers agreed that Day was a gem. His lighting and shooting were impeccable.
Sacramento icon and former KCRA and KOVR 13 Anchor Stan Atkinson referred to Day as a “master talent.” That he was, indeed. But everyone who knew Day – also knew that he was a truly all-around, outstanding, wonderful guy who embraced noble qualities like kindness, dedication, commitment, and values.
“I haven’t worked with any videographer in my decades of production, whether it be in TV or my personal business, that matches his work ethic and excellence,” said Steve LaRosa of Steve LaRosa Productions. “Add to that, his positive energy and great humor. There were always many laughs to be had when working with this exceptional human being.”
As remembrances flood-in, people recall fond memories of when Day was a staff news photographer at CBS 13/KOVR. “He was one of a superior group of photographers at the station,” said former KOVR General Manager Michael Fiorile.
Former KOVR Photographer Stan Pechner, who now freelances in the Bay Area for ESPN and the Food Network, said Day was one of two cameramen he looked-up to at the station. “I wanted to shoot just like him,” said Pechner. “I wanted to tell stories just like him. Ken was kind, caring, and always took the time to answer my questions or show me how.”
Day loved the outdoors and nature. But covering news often remained at the top of his list. He recently got involved with the production of a couple of original music videos – a first for him. He also shot dozens upon dozens of social cause documentaries. Fearless in the field, he always went the extra distance to accomplish excellence.
In June 2023, Day finished his last documentary entitled Never Too Late? He loved working and continued shooting even after his diagnosis and while undergoing chemotherapy. He was passionate about his latest documentary because it was about humanity and equality. The program profiled one of the oldest people in the country to undergo gender affirmation surgery.
Ted Ross directed the documentary that was narrated and co-written by former KGO Reporter Wayne Freedman. It was edited by Emmy SF Governor and former NATAS Regional President Steve Shlisky. Day felt at home working with talented friends on this program. They included his neighbor and Coordinating Producer Toby Momtaz. All experienced professionals, they showcased and maximized the beauty of every second of Day’s footage.
“Ken’s compassion was endless and his big heart shown through in his work,” said Ross. “He captured not only beautiful pictures but also the tender, tense, and brutally honest moments that made stories come to life. He was blessed with so many wonderful talents. Those of us who called him a friend and a colleague benefitted from every minute we shared.”
Day was inducted into the NATAS Silver Circle in 2020, honoring him for his more than 25 years of commitment and work in television. But time alone does not qualify someone for Silver Circle. An honoree must have also given back to their community, industry or the TV Academy itself. Day did all of that.
The last five-years, Day underwent numerous hard-core chemo sessions. Then, in October of 2023, he opted for CAR-T treatment at Stanford Medical Center. It’s a process where a patient’s T Cells are extracted and modified in a laboratory. They’re essentially re-engineered and injected into a patient’s body to fight the cancer.
The treatment made Day very sick, but in December, he was cured of the Multiple Myeloma he was diagnosed with five years earlier. He lived a brief few weeks – cancer-free. His voice was getting stronger and he could taste food again. Day said, “Everyone should have a near-death experience to fully be able to appreciate life.”
Then, an awful turn of events. Those re-engineered cells began causing inflammation and serious side-effects. On February 6th, Day was done with needles and surgeries. He went on comfort care. His wife of 45 years, Vicki Day, was by his side. So were his four children.
Day was scheduled to be transported home from Stanford the day he died. He passed 15-minutes before the ambulance arrived. Going into this relatively new CART-T treatment, Day knew it would either cure him – or if he died, he would contribute to research and helping someone else live. An autopsy will help doctors better understand why the treatment failed.
On February 28, 2024, Day would have turned 68.
Former KOVR 13 Anchor Jennifer Whitney worked with Day for years. She writes:
“And now you can rest, although we wish you could have been here longer. What a legacy you leave. May angels be guiding you down the most beautiful path that will photograph even more beautifully once you’re done with it. We will miss you, Ken.”