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Longtime CDT photographer says goodbye

Bill is usually is the instigator while playing with Amish children but sometimes they give it right back to him. Bill Coleman has been photographing the Amish for over 30 years.
Bill is usually is the instigator while playing with Amish children but sometimes they give it right back to him. Bill Coleman has been photographing the Amish for over 30 years.

When an employee leaves the CDT a mass email goes out to everyone announcing their departure. Over the years I’ve seen it many times. Although I knew it was coming, I wasn’t exactly prepared to see that email with my name on it.

But after almost 15 years, it’s my time to move on from the CDT. Seeing that message sent a wave of emotion and memories through me. While I’m excited to be taking a position at the State College Area School District, reflecting on my experience is slightly overwhelming.

Being a photojournalist has never been a job to me. It’s so much more than that. I love what I do, and it’s really important. I have the privilege of documenting the history of Centre County.

As I reflect on my experiences, I first think of all the amazing people I have met. Their stories have not only been for our readers but have become part of me. When you spend time with such talented people you can’t help but be inspired. These people trusted me and let me into their worlds. For these moments in time I was given access to these people’s incredible lives.

One thing I take away from these people is that they aren’t great by accident. They are passionate and driven to do that they do. Hard work and sacrifice led me to be telling their stories, and I was constantly inspired and motivated by these people. They helped serve as creative fuel for me to produce my own art.

It’s hard to single out these stories or rank them, but here are some special memories:

▪ Bill Coleman took me into his world with the Amish, and I didn’t know what to expect. I got a glimpse of not only the secret world of the Amish culture, but also an inside look at one of the most talented photographers I have ever met.

▪ Watching the face of Joe Humphreys fly fishing on Spring Creek. The weathered face of a man in his 80s immediately transformed into child-like excitement and pure happiness.

▪ There’s much debate about the best Penn State football home game atmosphere. I’ve been to just about all of them in the past 15 years, and the Nebraska game in 2002 is the best for me. The crowd noise was ear-piercing, and I could literally feel the ground shaking on the field.

▪ Seeing Dr. James Fick perform brain tumor removal surgery makes the list. The accurate precision of his hands and his poise under such intense pressure was unbelievable.

▪ The hands of artist Shirley Sturtz-Davis, which are twisted from rheumatoid arthritis yet create the most beautiful paintings.

▪ Leaning out of a Cessna aircraft over Beaver Stadium to capture the stripe-out photo, Mary Lou Pepe’s fiber art, Dr. Craig Collison’s battle with flesh-eating bacteria, Tony Sapia’s incredible bread, Joe Paterno’s funeral procession, Rose Budd Fenstermacher’s beautiful personality and paintings, Storm Smith’s walk-off double, Isaac Messner’s selflessness, Chris Petrick’s spirit and electronic trumpet and the soul-touching music of the Essence of Joy choir are just some moments that stand out in my mind.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all the talented people I’ve worked with who helped me tell these stories. And maybe, best of all, I met my wife while covering a State High basketball game.

Not all the things I covered were happy. I was at many fires, accidents and tragedies. But life isn’t always perfect, and seeing the bad stuff also gave me an important understanding of life and how the real world is good and bad.

Through it all, there is no doubt that I am a better man for having these experiences at the CDT. The job was pretty amazing, and as I move on I am very humbled and thankful for the opportunity. I’ve been in front of and behind the scenes and loved every minute of it.

This county is a pretty great place, and the people here are what makes it wonderful. Thank you to every one of you that touched my life during the past 15 years. Part of every story stays with me and will make me better at my next adventure in life.