“He was a one-name guy. You say Scotty at UWS, and everyone in the last 20-25 years knows who you are talking about.”
That’s how Jed Carlson, the longtime staff photographer for the Superior Telegram put it when the news began to circulate that Brian “Scotty” Thomson, a member of the UW-Superior Athletic Hall of Fame, had passed away. Thomson, 79, died Sunday, Nov. 1, at St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth.
“He always had time for people, always had time for other photographers whether they had been doing it for a long time or were just starting out,” Carlson said. “With me, he always did whatever he needed to make sure I had a pass to get in and shoot the (Great Northern Classic) rodeo. And, no matter what, there was always a Christmas card.”
Thomson started taking photos at Yellowjacket men’s hockey games in the mid-to-late 1990s. A hobby that started with him shooting from the stands led to Thomson becoming the athletics department’s official photographer, and consequently, one of its most recognizable faces.
Scotty and his wife, Deb, were great fans of our teams at UW-Superior, going all the way back to my playing days. I played hockey for the Yellowjackets from 1994-1998. At the end of my senior year, Scotty presented me with a huge scrapbook. It had all kinds of photos and news clippings from that season. It was completely unexpected, and something I cherish to this day.
Thomson’s work often accompanied game recaps and feature stories on the Yellowjacket Athletics’ web site. He also shot team and individual photos, and at the end of each year would often provide student-athletes with CDs containing all of the photos he had taken of them during the season.
It wasn’t like he would snap a few thousand photos and just hand them off for you to go through. Scotty would snap a few thousand photos, then go through them all to see what was useable, and then edit them for you. Once you got the CD from him, it was essentially plug and play. He took a lot of the labor out of it for me. His work, for the most part, serves as our photo archive going back to the early 2000s.
Thomson put in countless hours taking photos at Yellowjacket sporting events, and those hours, in addition to the fact he did it all on a volunteer basis, made him a unanimous choice to be inducted into the UW-Superior Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to work with Scotty on a professional level much, but I am grateful for the time he put in to take photos when I was a student-athlete here,” said UW-Superior athletics director Nick Bursik. “I know my family and I really appreciated it when we would receive photos of me pitching.
“Our Athletic Hall of Fame has a category designed to give someone who has made significant contributions to our department a place among the most important people in our history. Scotty is one of the most-deserving people to ever receive the honor and will forever be part of our Yellowjacket athletic story.”
It wasn’t all about sports action photos, however. Thomson was always front and center for the aforementioned rodeo in Superior, and relished the opportunities he had each year to take trips with his camera club.
Scotty would be so excited when he came back from his trips and loved to show me the shots that he got. He did incredible work, and it was a no-brainer for me to ask him to be the photographer the day my wife and I got married. He captured the greatest day of our lives at the time, and that work is on display in our home and in both of our offices. I’ll be forever grateful to Scotty for what he did that day and for his many years of friendship.
Away from Superior, I have a favorite memory.
Scotty was a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, and could often be seen wearing a Red Sox cap or sweatshirt. In 2004, after nearly a century, Boston won the World Series, putting to bed one of the longest championship droughts in the history of professional sports. I saw him at a game right after that and he was beaming. "I can die a happy man," he said to me.
As per Scotty’s request, no services are planned.