Obituary - Kenneth Ray Bennett

Kenneth Ray Bennett opened his old-time photo studio in Jackson in 1978.

Kenneth Ray Bennett died in his sleep July 25 at his home in Jackson. His family provided the following.

Kenneth was born Feb. 12, 1939, in Corbin, Kentucky. He was an early pioneer in the old-time photo industry. He started his first traveling studio in 1973 at swap meets in Southern California.

In his career as an old-time photographer, Ken established many studios all over the United States (16 in all), until he retired in 2008. On his first visit to northwest Wyoming, in the mid-1970s, he was captivated by its wild beauty. His goal while he was still residing in California was to call Wyoming his full-time home sometime in the not so distant future.

Ken was an independent spirit. He had a passion for the great outdoors and an affinity for wide-open spaces with elbow room. Working out of his car in the early ’70s, Ken and his mother sold flocked bears to tourist shops in and around Yellowstone National Park. From that point on Ken was hooked on Wyoming and told his mother that someday he would make his home there.

Ken’s dream became a reality. He made his way to Cody in 1974 and set up a studio there. In 1978 he moved from Cody to Jackson Hole and opened Dé Ja Vu Antique Portraits (now called Judge Roy Bean’s Old Time Photos) directly across from the Teton Theatre and The Bunnery.

His other passion was fishing. He claimed that any time spent fishing would add time to your life span. He loved Western history, which gave him creative inspiration to design Old West Studios with a “classy feel.” Ken’s artistic talents allowed him to use his vivid imagination and build many set designs in the old time photo industry that were replicated by many.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964 and was honorably discharged as a private first class as an instructor.

Ken is survived by his lifetime partner of 35 years, Diane Ellis; Jackie Lewis, who was like a daughter; his nephew Mike Klecha, who was like a son; many longtime close friends in Jackson; other nephews and nieces; and countless members of the Antique Amusement Photographers International (Old Time Photo association since 1995).

Ken will truly be missed, as he was an inspiration to many and a true example of how to live and care for others in need.

Ken was cremated at Valley Mortuary. In lieu of flowers, donations will be accepted for a celebration of life, scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Friday in the Carriage Room at the Virginian Restaurant. Refreshments will be served.

Johanna Love steers the newsroom as editor. Her time off is occupied by kid, dog, biking, camping and art. She loves to hear from readers with story tips, kudos, criticism and questions.

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