Bill Senft, a Newsday photo department legend whose pictures still line the walls of the newspaper's Melville office, died Saturday morning in Florida. He was 90.
In 25 years at the newspaper, Senft shot everything from landscapes to civil rights leaders and celebrities with what former Newsday photographer Ken Spencer called an artistic eye.
Senft stumbled upon photography as a teenager, said his wife, Helen, 83, and his job was his life.
"He loved his job so much, he loved photography so much . . . from the time he first discovered how to develop film," she said.
Senft was born April 4, 1923, and grew up in Brooklyn. After high school he took classes at Brooklyn College, then joined the Army in 1943, where he served as a forward observer. He left the Army in 1946 at the rank of corporal.
The following year, he met Helen Joyce during a joy ride with friends to Sheepshead Bay. They were married in 1953, when Senft worked for the Long Island Press. The couple spent most of their time on Long Island in Valley Stream, where they raised their two sons.
Senft came to Newsday in 1963. He became an integral part of the fabric of the photo department, enhancing its reputation for being fun-loving and full of pranksters, said former Newsday photographer David Pokress, now a photo editor for the New York Daily News.
"It was always fun to be around him," Pokress said. "That was the whole atmosphere in the company."
Despite his lighthearted side -- Pokress said fellow photographers called him "Captain Willy" because of his German heritage, joking that he was a former U-boat captain -- his work was taken seriously.
"I remember an editor telling me one time, 'The really neat thing is when you send Bill Senft out on an assignment, he always comes back with good stuff and more often great stuff,' " Spencer said.
Pokress said Senft was a known talent among the photo staff. "He was one of those people that with a camera in his hand, he made magic every time," he said.
In addition to his wife, Senft is survived by sons William Robert of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Kevin Michael of Franconia, N.H.; and two grandchildren. A wake will be Sunday at All County Funeral Home & Crematory in Port St. Lucie, Fla.