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12/29/2009

Nowell Briscoe, collector of obits, explains his passion

December 29, 2009 | 12:03 pm

Monday night on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program they told the story of Nowell Briscoe, an Atlanta man who has been keeping scrapbooks of obituaries for more than 50 years. He scours the New York Times, USA Today and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and collects obituaries of the  famous, as well those of his family members. Why does he do this? In his words:

Even though I didn't know these people, I feel a link to them. The scrapbook's silent. They sit on the shelves. Sometimes they're not opened for weeks, months. But when they are opened, they do make a sound. You're bringing them back to life.

I was talking to a friend of mine not long ago, and he said: I now officially proclaim you as the archivist to the dead. If I'm fortunate enough to have an obit written for me, they will say: Nowell Briscoe, the archivist of death, dies.

You can check out the rest of the NPR story about Briscoe here and see a photo of him and his scrapbooks here.

In looking back at the notable deaths of 2009, Briscoe specifically mentions actor Richard Todd. We have our list of prominent figures lost this year in an array of photo galleries, and we're interested to hear which names stand out for you. Who will you miss in 2010 and why?

-- Claire Noland

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