Wausau woman coined Queen of Death with unusual collection - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wausau woman coined Queen of Death with unusual collection

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Kathy Volkmann's unusual hobby has earned her an unusual nickname.Wau

"I am called the Queen of Death," said Volkmann. To her, that's a compliment.

"I probably know more than anyone else I know about the social history of death," she said.

The Wausau native began her death collection more than 30 years ago. She's collected everything from photos to casket plates, even books.

"I go to antique stores, believe it or not I find things at rummage sales," explained Volkmann.

While this morbid memorabilia can be frightening, Volkmann says, to her, its fascinating.

"I'm not at all interested in learning to embalm someone, or preparing a dead person. I'm just so interested in learning how and why we treat the dead and how that's changed over time."

The pieces in her collection date back decades. The earliest piece is from the 1860s. One of the more interesting pieces is a century old sick call set. It was used to administer last rites in catholic households. But Volkmann also has some more current pieces, like a do-it-yourself coffin book, something she says makes death a more personal experience.

"In my entire collection, I don't find anything morbid about it."

Volkmann's collection has caught the eye of collectors across the state. Here in Marathon County, historical society leaders say it's one of a kind.

"It's always nice to have people out in the community with their collections and willing to share them," said Christine Martens, marking coordinator at the historical society.

These items are definitely worth something, "there's a hierarchy of death photos," said Volkmann.

But, it's not about that. She says it's about the stories.

"I so wish I knew the names of all the people that are dead in the pictures because I would research the lives of every one of them," said Volkmann.

Because she is after all, known as the Queen of Death.

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