News Tribune Photo

Bruce Kellman, longtime News Tribune photographer, dies at 66

Bruce Kellman, longtime TNT photographer, dies at 66

By Craig Sailor
Staff writer

Bruce Kellman, who spent 42 years as a staff photographer for The News Tribune, died Monday. He was 66.
Kellman shot photos of everything from soldiers shipping out to Vietnam to the construction of the Tacoma Dome.
He retired from the newspaper in 2007 after being diagnosed with bronchiectasis, a rare disease that destroys the airways. He received a double lung transplant in 2010. He died at home, surrounded by family members.
Daughter Elizabeth Fontanilla said she’ll miss her father’s wit and sense of humor and the good advice family and co-workers sought from him – as well as his fatherly support. “He would back you up even if you were wrong.”
Kellman was born April 17, 1945, in Sycamore, Ill., and moved with his family to Selah, Wash., when he was in high school. He bought his first camera at age 9 from lawn mowing proceeds and got his first job photographing a wedding for a commercial studio in Yakima when he was 15. With that money, “He bought a car even though he wasn’t old enough to drive,” Fontanilla said. “He would have his sister drive him around.”
Kellman spent his last two years of college at the University of Puget Sound where he was yearbook photographer, graduating in 1967. During that time he started work at the Tribune and settled in Tacoma with wife Joyce to raise daughters Elizabeth and Emily and son David.
After retirement Kellman spent time with his family, entertaining his six grandchildren with his backyard railroad. It was a 10-year work in progress, his family said.
“He tinkered with it everyday, building track and landscaping it,” Fontanilla said. She said he also enjoyed traveling with his family as much as he could while coping with his illness.
Fellow Tribune photographer and friend Russ Carmack credits Kellman for Carmack’s long career at the newspaper. Kellman urged Carmack to apply at the newspaper after Carmack left the Navy. “It was his intervention in my life that made this career possible.” Later, Kellman was best man at Carmack’s wedding.
“He had this calming way about him. His style was he just stood back and watched. He liked to get the moment that was relevant to the story,” Carmack said.
Kellman had a love for shooting football. He was on the sidelines most every Saturday and Sunday covering college and professional teams. He traveled with the Huskies and Cougars to their Rose Bowl appearances and to Detroit to shoot the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Tribune photo editor Jeremy Harrison said he was impressed with Kellman’s zeal in covering football late in his career. “That takes a lot of energy and high stamina.”
Harrison also remembers Kellman’s consistently professional manner. When Harrison called Kellman to cover a breaking crime story Kellman asked if he could shave first. “I said ‘no.’ Then he got the key shot of the arrest and went home and shaved before coming in,” Harrison said.
Fellow Tribune photographer Peter Haley grew up seeing Kellman’s photos in the paper. Later, when the two worked together, they would discuss photo techniques. On Tuesday Haley recalled something Kellman told him years ago: “When the shutter is open it’s like I hear music.”
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541
A memorial service for Bruce Kellman will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 at Fircrest United Methodist Church, 1018 Columbia Ave., Fircrest.

6 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Scott Eklund

    I grew up in Sumner getting the Tacoma News Tribune every morning so I could see Bruce Kellman’s amazing sports photographs! I then had the honor to work with him as a photographer at the TNT. He was always someone that you could count on that would help you out. I never saw him loose his cool, or get in someone’s way to get his own picture. He was out there on the sidelines in his 60’s, still getting the great moments. A real gentleman, professional and friend, and I will miss him!

    Nov 15, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  2. Grant Haller

    I remember walking out of Husky Stadium with Bruce. He mentioned that it was his last game. I was a little shocked. He hadn’t mentioned that he was retiring. He just said he didn’t think he could maintain his level of photography. At first I thought he was going to stop shooting football but, no, he said he was retiring from the paper.

    I couldn’t believe it. He had always covered Husky football. I covered Husky teams in Rose Bowls and and Seahawks in the Super Bowl with him. He was alway there. Always early. Always prepared. And always doing the job in his quite way. He joined other photographers in Olympia to support a photographer on the Olympian photo staff who was in a little trouble. He just stood in the background, watching, being there.

    I’ll miss him!

    Nov 16, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  3. John Olberg

    Bruce and I were best friends at Selah High Shool. I remember going on several photography jaunts with him, even watching him develop film and prints in the school dark room, and driving around in his “straight eight” big Pontiac. We went our separate ways during our college years, but I still have fond memories of Bruce–his enthusiam, focus, willingness to help others, and good humor. I was shocked to learn of his death, and pray that God’s love will surround Joyce and her family as this time.

    Nov 17, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  4. Mr Richard Henty Leigh

    Bruce was the son of My Aunt Vi. So Bruce and my family were all cousins. One time, not too long ago, we had a huge family reunion up in Oregon. Bruce was kind enough to do all of the photos for us. He was just great. And what a perfect host he was. I was sad, from then on, I never got to spend much time with Bruce. We have communicated on the web, but nothing like having a cousin you can be close to. You see, they all lived in Washingon State and California, and we all lived in the deep south, down in Mississippi. However, I must say, we sure did love Bruce and all of his family. I can hear him now, saying, Ah, dont worry about me, I am going to be just fine, you would not believe what God has in his plans for us. Someday maybe we can all be together. Our hearts and prayers are with Bruce and his wonderful family. Love you,
    The Richard Henry Leigh Family and siblings in Hernando, Mississippi.

    Nov 18, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  5. Carolann O'Brien Storli

    I went to Selah High School with Bruce and remember him for his wit, energy and enthusiasm. He had a passion for photography and a great eye. He was also a good guy who brought a different perspective to our small town high school. My thoughts are with Joyce and the rest of his family.

    Nov 20, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  6. Mike Sando

    It’s great to see today in the TNT that Bruce is being honored by the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame. Bruce was such a great guy, and wise. I remember driving from Chicago to Green Bay with him for a Seahawks playoff game years ago. He was just such a likable guy — exactly the type of guy you’d want to share a car with during a long drive.

    Jun 21, 2016 @ 10:00 am