By Rachel Christian
Friends and family of Bruce Wilson Sr. remember the Kissimmee photographer as a man truly dedicated to his craft.
Wilson, 77, passed away Monday after battling a short-term illness. He left behind a legacy of hard work and a rich portfolio more than 45 years in
Wilson was born in Boston, Mass., and moved with his family to Central Florida when he was growing up.
He graduated from St. Cloud High School, and enlisted in the United States Air Force after graduation.
After serving his country, Wilson returned to Osceola County, where he soon found work at the local telephone company as a cable splicer. He also managed the Kissimmee and St. Cloud movie theaters.
Wilson always dreamed of owning his own business, and in 1966, that dream became a reality when he opened Bruce Wilson Photography.
Over the next four decades, Wilson fostered community tiers and grew his small home-based studio into a thriving operation.
As the business grew, Wilson and his wife Cathy operated three different studios over the years in Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Park. During the 1980s, the studios employed over 33 people.
During his extensive career, Wilson held accounts with places, such as Walt Disney World, Tupperware and the naval base in Orlando. He was also well known for his high school senior portraits and family portraits.
When Bruce Wilson Photography moved from U.S. Highway 192 to its current location on Stewart Avenue in 1999, Wilson began handing over control of the business to his eldest son, Bruce Wilson Jr. The founder still remained heavily involved in the company though, and never officially retired.
Over the years, Wilson earned a reputation as a hard worker by all that knew him – even his competition.
Fellow photographer Skip Stowers recounted the tenacity and passion Wilson consistently brought to his work. For over 35 years, Wilson and Stowers operated as Kissimmee’s most prominent photography studios. The two professionals differed in primary subject matter, with Wilson catering to portraits and schools, and Stowers focusing more on weddings and event coverage.
The growing Osceola County community provided ample assignments for the two men, and Stowers said he always admired the work ethic Wilson exhibited.
“He was a man with an extreme passion for photography,” Stowers said. “He told me he never planned on retiring, and he was right. He practiced photography until he physically couldn’t do it anymore. He was a very driven person.”
Linda Outten has worked at Wilson’s studio for 35 years, and said she still carries fond memories of her former boss and his lighthearted humor.
“He would always greet us each morning as we came into the office, and he just had a great sense of humor about him,” she recalled. “He would make these off-handed remarks that would make us all crack up laughing.”
Wilson shot photography for Outten’s wedding, and the long-time employee recounted memories of visiting the Wilsons’ home each Christmas Eve with her family. Her children asked to trick-or-treat in Wilson’s neighborhood each year because the photographer took Polaroid snapshots of the children and gave them the print as a keepsake – along with plenty of candy, of course.
Outten echoed Stowers sentiments about the photograph’s commitment to his craft. But she also stressed the human touch and kindness that proceeded the photographer whereever he went.
“He was such a gentleman, a truly great person,” she said. “There are so many precious memories I have of him, that we all have of him.”
Funeral services for Wilson will be today at 11 a.m. at Kissimmee Christian Church.