SCARBOROUGH – Kenneth E. Cole would feel proud knowing he is today’s feature obituary.

He collected obituaries from The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram for the past 50 years or so. He searched for the names of old-timers he grew up with in Portland’s East Deering neighborhood. He looked for alumni from Portland High School using his collection of yearbooks from 1922 through 1939. For every alumnus that died, he used a red pen to write “deceased” near his or her picture, and the date of death. He then cut the obituary out of the paper and saved it in an envelope.

His longtime friend Kurt Nielsen of Cape Elizabeth said on Thursday that he mailed a batch of obituaries to Cole every month for at least 20 years when Mr. Cole lived in Florida.

“The most important thing in his life was death,” Nielsen said. “I don’t know why. When he wrote to me, he would say, ‘I hit the obituary jackpot. I got four this week,’ and then he would name the classes they were in. He just thought there was a need to record history. In his mind, I think he felt he was honoring them.”

Mr. Cole died early Thursday at the Maine Veteran’s Home in Scarborough. He was 94.

Mr. Cole’s obituary, which he wrote, says he graduated from Portland High School in 1935. Nielsen said Cole’s picture is not among those of the graduates in that year.

He worked for the former railway express at Union Station in Portland for nearly 40 years. It was a company similar to UPS. He delivered packages to homes and businesses throughout Greater Portland. He retired in 1982. Nielsen remembered as a kid, seeing the bright green truck he was driving pull up to his house. Mr. Cole usually stopped to have coffee with Nielsen’s mother.

Mr. Cole was married twice, but never had children. Nielsen said Mr. Cole was like a father to him. He said Mr. Cole always took an interest in his life. Nielsen said Mr. Cole once offered to meet up with him along a section of the Appalachian Trail that he was hiking. They missed each other by about two hours. Nielsen said he left a note to show he had been there.

“I almost pulled it off,” Nielsen said. “Kenny took the interest to try and do it, which was pretty incredible. What an amazing person to even suggest that.”

Mr. Cole and his second wife, known as “Dudy,” had a passion for traveling. Nielsen said they drove across the United States about eight times. They lived in an RV in Florida for 28 years. They also traveled to Europe, where Mr. Cole visited World War II battlefields and cemeteries.

Around 1960, Mr. Cole and his wife began researching their families, which included finding old, small family burial lots. Nielsen said Mr. Cole had a passion for genealogy and history.

“He was infatuated with information,” he said. “He wouldn’t let up on anything till he found everything out.”

Mr. Cole moved to an assisted living facility in Saco in 2009.

Nielsen described Mr. Cole on Thursday as man to whom “everything was a ritual.”

For instance, Mr. Cole would not drink coffee without a chocolate donut. He ate lunch every day at noon and supper at 5 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m., Mr. Cole had his favorite drink, Wild Turkey 101 Proof. He had two ice cubes in his glass. He also ate 10 Pringles potato chips with his cocktail.

“To a lot of people, he was strange,” Nielsen said. “A lot of people didn’t like him. I looked past the idiosyncrasies of his exactness. So what, if he was that way? We both shared our lives together and it was great.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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