News your connection to The Boston Globe

Benedict Zobrist, 85; built collection of Truman Library

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Benedict K. Zobrist, who tracked down documents from hundreds of members of the Harry S. Truman administration as director of the late president's museum, died Thursday. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by the Truman Presidential Museum & Library. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Mr. Zobrist began leading the library in 1971, one year before the death of the nation's 33d president. He remained the director of the museum until 1994, when he retired.

Part of Mr. Zobrist's job was to see that Truman's office papers were acquired, said Ray Geselbracht, special assistant to the Truman Library director.

After Truman's wife, Bess, died in 1982, Mr. Zobrist processed the vast collection of letters she had received from her husband during the couple's courtship and marriage. The collection, now known as the "Dear Bess" letters, consists of about 1,300 letters and is considered unique among presidential artifacts.

Mr. Zobrist also led the effort to reinvent the Truman Library and urged its nonprofit support arm to seek donations. More than $22 million was raised. The first new exhibits devoted to Truman's administration opened in 2001.

Born in Illinois in 1921, Mr. Zobrist graduated from Augustana College in 1946 and received master's and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University. He worked at the Library of Congress in Washington and the Newberry Library in Chicago in the 1950s before a teaching stint at Augustana College in the 1960s. He became assistant director of the Truman Library in 1969.