Bruce Kellman, longtime TNT photographer, dies at 66
By Craig Sailor
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.