John Curtis Guillet
John Curtis Guillet passed away peacefully on January 23, 2014, following a brief illness. Mr. Guillet was born on September 15, 1922 to John and Blanche Guillet of Alexandria, Louisiana. He graduated from high school in Alexandria, where he met his wife-to-be, Kathryn ("Kitty") Bordelon. While he was attending Texas A & M University, majoring in physics, Mr. Guillet was summoned by the U.S. Army Air Corps to join the officers corps, and serve as a flight instructor. He received this particular summons because he held a pilot's license, a somewhat rare talent at the time. Mr. Guillet served in Punta Gorda, Florida, where he instructed airmen in flying the P-51D Mustang, the P-40 Warhawk, and other fighter aircraft.
After World War II, Mr. Guillet returned to Natchitoches to complete his studies at Northwestern. Mr. Guillet had developed an interest in photography in high school. While attending Northwestern, he began to seriously study photography on the weekends in New Orleans with Pops Whitesell, a master portrait photographer, known for his focus on natural lighting and simple composition. Mr. Guillet opened Guillet Photography after World War II. The studio was first housed on Second Street next to the old Rendezvous Café, and eventually moved to its final location on Second Street next to the First Methodist Church, where it remained for many years. During the late 1950's and 1960's, Mr. Guillet supplemented his photography income by working as a crop duster pilot during the spring and summer farming seasons, spraying cotton crops on many farms along Cane River.
Mr. Guillet's photography career spanned more than sixty years, employing virtually every genre known to the art, including portraiture, historic, documentary, aerial, still-life, book and magazine layout, abstract work, and even digital photography. Mr. Guillet preferred portrait and still-life composition, captured with old-fashioned "view" cameras. He processed and printed all of his photographs by hand in his studio. Throughout all of his work, he had a passion for simplicity, elegance, and proper balance. Mr. Guillet's numerous books and achievements in photography include the following: Graphlex, Inc. National Award (Wedding Photography), Applied Photography National Award, Eastman Kodak awards, and an Eastman Kodak commission for the Tabasco series on Avery Island, Cane River Cuisine, Dreams, Louisiana Living, Louisiana's Architectural and Historical Legacies, and others. Mr. Guillet was selected to photograph Governor Jimmie Davis' 100th birthday celebration in 1999, and also photographed Governor Earl Long, Clementine Hunter (a long-time friend of Mr. Guillet's), and numerous other Louisiana personalities. In 2001, Northwestern State University awarded Mr. Guillet an honorary Doctor of Letters in Humanities. Mr. Guillet's photography collection of nearly one million negatives remains housed at the Cammie G. Henry Research Center in the Watson Memorial Library at Northwestern State University.
Though he was known by most for his photography, Mr. Guillet was also an accomplished pilot, trumpet player and tennis player. One of his favorite artists was Miles Davis, who "knew how to keep things simple." Mr. Guillet continued to play tennis regularly with his life-long tennis group well past his eightieth year. He also flew his own airplane—a World War II-era Aeronca, with a wooden propeller that required hand-propping—until he turned 85 years old. Throughout his life, he remained a voracious reader and lover of all types of art and history. Mr. Guillet's last trip across town before his illness began was for his daily breakfast at Lasyone's, with his friends.
Mr. Guillet is survived by his dear friend, Marie Gahagan, his eight children, Gaylon Guillet Quinn (Denver, Colorado), Barry Guillet (Natchitoches), Bruce Guillet (Bossier), June Guillet Hill (Houma), Kenneth Guillet (Little Rock, Arkansas), Cathy Guillet Maes (Denver, Colorado), Wendy Guillet Mathews (The Woodlands, Texas), and Susan Guillet Clark (Fort Worth, Texas), as well as fifteen grandchildren, including Brian Quinn, Chris Guillet, David Guillet, Andy Guillet, Vince Guillet, Chantal Gomez, Daniel Gomez, Elishah Gomez, Caleb Gomez, Havilah Beebe, Heather Gomez, Douglas Maes, Evan Maes, Lauren Stephens, and Kathryn Mathews; and seventeen great-grandchildren, and his second wife, Nancy Guillet. Mr. Guillet was predeceased by his brother, Glenn Guillet, his sister, Patricia Guillet Crooks, his parents, and his wife Kitty Bordelon Guillet. He was a lifelong member of the Immaculate Conception Church, where he attended daily Mass for many years.
Visitation shall be Saturday, January 25, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Blanchard St. Denis Funeral Home in Natchitoches, Louisiana, with a Rosary at 6:00 p.m. The Funeral Mass shall be Sunday, January 26, at 1:00 p.m., at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana, with burial to follow at Memory Lawn. Honorary pallbearers will include Mr. Guillet's breakfast group, occasionally consisting of Jim Talmadge, Mike Murphy, Pat Johnson, Taylor Townsend, and Billy Fair.
Blanchard St. Denis - Natchitoches
848 Keyser Ave. Natchitoches, LA 71457
Published in Shreveport Times on Jan. 25, 2014