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Commentary: Photographer Ron Adams is returning to his artwork

Ron Adams on assignment one day in May. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Ron Adams is working his last day today at the West Central Tribune. He is retiring after nearly two decades of photographing the history of Willmar and the region.

Adams, 61, is a familiar face around the community as he has often been seen photographing many local parades,, accident scenes, school activities and other news events.

He is a man of tall stature, which can be imposing at first sight. Yet Adams’ quiet demeanor could connect with photo subjects, especially a room of school children. They often referred to him as “the picture man.”

Adams started at the Tribune in 1994 as a part-time photographer, working weekends and holidays. Eventually he began working more hours, and in recent years was the primary photographer in the newsroom.

As the photography technology changed, Adams made the transition from camera, film and chemistry to make his photographs to digital cameras, memory cards and digital files to make his photographs.

In recent years, he has added videography to his artistic repertoire, first utilizing a video camera and later, an iPhone to capture video images, edit the raw video and produce a video for

One day this spring he stopped by my office and told me he had decided to retire from the newspaper business and focus on his painting. Our loss will be a gain for the art world.

While Adams had the eye for the photo and video, in his heart he has always been “an art man.” His artistic passion was interrupted for the past two decades by the demanding schedule of a news photographer.

So he is looking forward focusing full-time on his art. We wish him the very best and are looking forward to his next production: a historical art mural focusing on Willmar and Kandiyohi County.

The announcement of Adams’ retirement has brought comments from colleagues, past and present.

“The thing about Ron that I will miss most is his gentleness. While rather imposing from afar, given his unnatural height and scraggly mane, he is a wonderfully kind soul,” said community content coordinator Dan Burdett. “No matter how hectic our days at the office got, Ron always found time to chat about our passion for the arts, particularly film and music. That always meant a great deal to me.”

“Ron was always fun to work with,” said reporter David Little. “Some people confused the two of us. Some people actually thought Ron was me. Other people would refer to Ron as Ron Little. True story.”

“Ron has been a great friend over the nearly 19 years we’ve worked together, and it’s a pleasure to be around him,” said Tribune Reporter Linda Vanderwerf. “I will miss his presence around the office and miss going on story assignments with him. It was always fun to watch little kids crowd around to get their pictures taken when we did stories in schools.

“Because Ron is an artist, he has always had an eye and a heart for seeking out the photos that tell the real story of our community,” said Tribune reporter Carolyn Lange. “We will miss his photos and we will miss him. But now he'll have time to paint the community another gift --a mural of the history of Kandiyohi County that'll be installed next year in the Health and Human Services building.”

“Ron has a talented eye for capturing the image, but that’s only part of what makes him so good at what he does. His respect for people and amiable personality allows people to be comfortable and be themselves in front of his camera,” said reporter Tom Cherveny.

“Ron has photographed pets from a Great Pyrenees to Jimi, his dachshund-beagle cross. He has really photographed everything, from babies to tornadoes for the Tribune,” said associate editor Gary Miller.

“Ron was a sucker for any photo assignment involving animals, and he really had a soft spot for shelter pets,” said reporter Anne Polta. “He was always my "go-to" photographer for anything involving the Humane Society. I knew he would look forward to it and come back with a great picture. He put his heart into these kinds of photos, and it showed.”

“There was always one thing that was constant regarding my newspaper career: Love for the photographers,” said former Tribune reporter Shelley Kubitz Mahannah, who was fond of calling him “Papa Ron.” “Ron Adams was one of the first photographers I worked with and although he was intimidating at first (you were, Papa), he’s someone I’m proud to know and love,” said Kubitz Mahannah.

“Best wishes Ron. Always enjoyed working with you back in the day,” said former Tribune reporter Cari Foss

We will all miss Ron Adams the photographer. Happy painting, Ron the artist!

Kelly Boldan is editor at the West Central Tribune.

Kelly Boldan

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune of Willmar, since joining the newspaper in October 2001. He has previously worked as the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, also part of Forum Communications Co., and other daily newspapers, online Web sites, and weekly agriculture newspapers in Wisconsin, Texas and Minnesota. You can follow via Twitter at @KellyBoldanWCT or read about the Tribune's newsroom blog at: or the Tribune's blog at:

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