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King's photos of Armstrong County captured its natural beauty

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 11:01 a.m.
Bill King of West Kittanning looks at the Relay For Life quilt that was created by 'The Aud Squad' using images from King's 2000 book, 'Armstrong County: A Place for All Seasons,' at ACMH Hospital on Thursday, May 29, 2008.
B.F.Henry | Tribune-Review
Bill King of West Kittanning looks at the Relay For Life quilt that was created by 'The Aud Squad' using images from King's 2000 book, 'Armstrong County: A Place for All Seasons,' at ACMH Hospital on Thursday, May 29, 2008.
Bill King as seen on a page of his book, “Armstrong County, A Place for All Seasons.'
Bill King as seen on a page of his book, “Armstrong County, A Place for All Seasons.'

Armstrong County lost one of its biggest cheerleaders on March 31. Well-known and respected by many, Bill King used his multiple talents to reach out to others to share his enthusiasm for life in this county.

Although a tremendous void will evidently be felt by those he affected, Bill leaves behind a huge legacy of creative work for present and future generations to enjoy. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Bill King left Armstrong County millions.

Probably most widely recognized for his outstanding works of photography and writing, King also made many contributions to county residents through his professional career at the Penn State Agricultural Extension, first as the county agent and later, as director.

According to Gary Sheppard, district director, King's career spanned a time when the mission remained the same, but the methods for goal achievement certainly changed.

“Bill was responsible for bringing cutting edge information to the entire agricultural community of the county. He had to get out and be a part of the community to do so. A farmer couldn't jump off of his tractor and check his email for notification of a new crop disease.”

It was during those years of educating the agricultural community that King's knack for using images with his own narration developed.

“Bill was a great educator. He could keep people captivated with his slide shows.”

These work-related slide shows then evolved into the countless slide shows featuring nature that King gifted to local groups and gatherings.

Anna Marie Himes, a fellow member of the Slate Lick United Presbyterian Church recalls,” Everyone always liked Bill's slide shows. He was able to take something as simple as dew or frost on a leaf and make it look beautiful.”

In his book, “Armstrong County, A Place for All Seasons,” Bill used his photo-journalistic gifts to showcase the awesome natural beauty that surrounds us.

His vivid images of scenes that are often taken for granted serve as a reminder that there is beauty in what we may consider commonplace.

Armstrong County Commissioner Robert Bower says, “Bill King's photo-art brings to life the natural resources, as seen in our county emblem. They have become such a part of the county, that we have them on permanent display in the administration building.”

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau (ATCB) was established with the help of founding member Bill King.

Not only did the bureau benefit from King's artistic interpretations through his photography, they also found him to be a source of comprehensive knowledge of anything Armstrong.

According to Jack Bennett, president of the ACTB Board of Directors, “Bill was the ‘go-to-guy. If you needed to know anything, you could call Bill. If he didn't know the answer, which was highly unlikely, he knew how and where to find it. I used to call him Mr. Armstrong History.”

Anne Pepling, curator of the Armstrong Historical Museum and Genealogical Society, agrees. “Bill was a wealth of information. He would always go to great lengths to find answers. He was a kind and giving person.”

Kind, giving, compassionate, brilliant and personable were all adjectives used to describe King.

Friend Howard “Howdy” Himes, says, “Bill always seemed to have his thinking cap on and seemed to see something good in everything”.

The beauty seen in King's photography may have been attributed, at least, in part to the beauty in others. Friend and fellow Rotary member, Ed Dunmire says, “Bill King was honest and sincere. He was a good listener and appreciated everyone. He looked at everything and saw that it was good.”

Linda Pennington, who collaborated with Bill on many ATCB projects, says, simply,”Bill was a priceless picture himself.”

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