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St. Petersburg man collected rare cameras and custom guitars

Gemologist and jeweler Gregory Bedore was 70.
Gregory Bedore loved bluegrass music and fishing trips with his brothers. During his life, he collected hundreds of handmade guitars and German cameras.
Gregory Bedore loved bluegrass music and fishing trips with his brothers. During his life, he collected hundreds of handmade guitars and German cameras. [ Courtesy Leon Bedore ]
Published Sep. 19|Updated Sep. 19

When he died Aug. 23 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Gregory Bedore, 70, left two collections he spent decades curating — Zeiss cameras and handmade guitars. Some of the guitars were made using other objects, including a cigar box, a vacuum cleaner and a drum.

How many cameras?

“Hundreds,” said son Dan Bedore.

And guitars?

“Just in this room I’m standing in, over 100.”

“He’s possessed,” Peggy Bedore said of her husband in the July 23, 1990, edition of the St. Petersburg Times. “Greg doesn’t do anything 50 percent; it’s always 110 percent. I thought he got a little carried away. But it must be nice to be that passionate about something.”

The source of that possession was, in fact, a passion for very specific, beautiful, useful, rare, remarkable things.

Gregory Bedore was featured in the St. Petersburg Times in 1990 with his camera collection. He was also a gemologist and jeweler. "He really took a lot of pride in jewelry," said son Leon Bedore.
Gregory Bedore was featured in the St. Petersburg Times in 1990 with his camera collection. He was also a gemologist and jeweler. "He really took a lot of pride in jewelry," said son Leon Bedore. [ St. Petersburg Times via Newspapers.com ]

The viewfinder

First, the man who grew up the sixth of 11 siblings started as an amateur photographer. Then, Bedore started collecting cameras, which took up space in the dining room, living room and bedroom of the couple’s apartment.

When they reached the bathroom, his wife said, they’d have a problem.

“They finally ended up there,” she told the Times in 1990.

Bedore sold all but his favorite, the Zeiss. The German cameras were made between the 1900s and 1970s and known for their quality. He hunted for them at camera shows, flea markets and garage sales, wrote about them and hoped to find them all and share them in a traveling display.

“They’re out there,” he said, his collection then about 135. “And I’ll find them, eventually.”

Gregory Bedore had hundreds of Zeiss cameras. He started collected the German cameras in his 30s.
Gregory Bedore had hundreds of Zeiss cameras. He started collected the German cameras in his 30s. [ Courtesy Dave Scheiber ]

Son shine

There’s no story in the archives telling the origin of Bedore’s great guitar collection, but they’re all playable, Dan Bedore said. Like his father, he taught himself to play, often flipping the guitars upside down until Bedore, a lefty, restrung them.

Leon Bedore, the son of Bedore’s first marriage, didn’t grow up with his father, but they reconnected years ago. His dad might have seemed gruff at first, but there was a joke and a smirk waiting to be shared.

Early in the rekindling of their relationship, Bedore didn’t always understand his elder son’s work. Leon Bedore, also known as Tes One, is an artist and the founder of St. Petersburg’s SHINE Mural Festival.

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“Over time, I ended up showing him what I meant,” he said. “It all started to make more sense to him.”

Before his death, the father was looking forward to seeing the son’s new show.

Their art forms, perhaps, are inverses of each other. Bedore, who worked for 40 years as a gemologist and jeweler, loved the small details of his work, his cameras and guitars. His eldest uses paint to cover city streets, buildings and blocks with stories.

Gregory Bedore, center, with sons Leon Bedore, left, and Dan Bedore.
Gregory Bedore, center, with sons Leon Bedore, left, and Dan Bedore. [ Courtesy Leon Bedore ]

Bonus years

In 2012, Bedore was diagnosed with COPD and told he had five years left to live.

Thanks to his brother’s care, Leon Bedore said, their father lived for 10 and grew close with his granddaughter, Cyan. When Leon Bedore’s daughter was little, he always had raisins, her favorite, in the house.

Dan Bedore isn’t sure what will become of his father’s collections.

“It’s daunting, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “If I’m being honest, I don’t know if there’s such a thing as too many guitars, but he’s trying.”

And the cameras?

They’re hard to appraise, but Bedore archived them well, his youngest son said.

“He would have been the guy to talk to.”

That guy found beauty others forgot — unlikely vessels for music and cameras that required work and thought.

“Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think everyone loves a camera,” Bedore told the Times in 1990. “They’ve recorded our childhood and captured things we want to remember. If they could talk, I wonder what stories they’d tell.”

Gregory Bedore was left-handed and strung his guitars that way. He collected rare guitars often made out of other objects.
Gregory Bedore was left-handed and strung his guitars that way. He collected rare guitars often made out of other objects. [ Courtesy Leon Bedore ]

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Read other Epilogues:

Clearwater teen died on the way to school. He lived with conviction.

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Holocaust survivor spent his life remembering the man who saved him

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