In Memory of

Henry

O.

Briggs

Obituary for Henry O. Briggs

Henry Oscar Briggs departed this life on September 27, 2023, at 7:11 PM. In May, just a few months
prior, Henry was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-commonly referred to as ALS or Lou
Gehrig’s disease. The fundraising ice bucket challenges which trended on social media a few years ago,
was the first introduction to many people about ALS. Henry was just 71 years old, and had spent the
prior 12 months at Beechwood Acute Care in New London, Connecticut. His transition to glory occurred,
sooner than we had anticipated, due to an ALS-related complication.

Henry’s parents predeceased him. He was born to Artemese Henry Briggs and George H. Briggs on
March 24, 1952, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mama, and George separated when Henry was quite young.
The village that raised Henry included, his beloved stepfather, the late Norman “Papa” Jones, as well as,
treasured grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and his two older siblings, Delbert, and Gwen.

We joke that Henry was Mama’s favorite. Was it the full face, for which he was nicknamed, “Cheeks”,
their shared love of football, or the smooth and beautiful ebony complexion of this mama’s boy? Well,
now they are together, again.

During his high school years, Henry lived in Providence, Rhode Island, with a cousin, the late Charles
Harry, and his wife Lucille. Charles passed many years ago, but Henry stayed in touch with, Lucille, and
her son, Drew and cousin, Betty.

At Providence’s Hope High School, Henry distinguished himself as a talented football player. When he
graduated in 1970, he was recruited by Norfolk State University. There he was a member of the
championship team that played in the Gate City Bowl.

Just a few weeks prior to his death, Henry animatedly told the story of what occurred that made Mama
send him to Providence for high school. On one Sunday in 1967, he and a couple of his beloved teenage
buddies from Poquonnock Bridge in Groton, engaged in some hijinks and ended up breaking a store
front window in downtown New London. The sound of the shattering glass, from the otherwise quiet
street, immediately caught the attention of a police officer walking his beat. The officer yelled to them,
and the small group of scared teen boys ran away, each taking a different route. As Henry recalls, he
was “just booking it” down Bank Street towards the train station, and all of a sudden, he looks up and
sees that a car has stopped, and the driver is rolling down their window. In an extraordinary turn of
events,” it was Mama in her old brown Chevy wagon”! She demanded to know what he was running
from, and “what he was doing in New London, anyway”!? He knew better than to lie. “Mama took me
straight to the police station”, he recalled.

Academics came easily to Henry. Math, science, and history were his favorite subjects. Years after
attending Norfolk State, Henry graduated from Charter Oak College. In 2007 and 2009, Henry would
complete studies for two master’s degrees from Walden University. A Master of Science in Education,
and the second, as an Educational Technology Specialist, for which he was admitted to the university’s
doctoral program. The early, but yet undiagnosed symptoms of ALS, however, would cruelly interrupt
his studies.

Henry is survived by his siblings and their spouses. Delbert Briggs (and Mary) of LaPlace, Louisiana;
Gwendolyn Cottman (and Wilson) of Carney’s Point, New Jersey; and Keith Briggs; Attorney Sarette
Williams and Reverend Sarell Grayson (and Stacy) all of Norwich. Survivors also include a godson, Shaun
Cottman, and many nephews and nieces, and dear cousins-each of whom he regarded with deep
affection. Asked what concerned him the most, as his illness progressed, Henry responded, “leaving my
family-I worry about them.”

To his sisters, Gwen, Sarette and Sarell, he was “our protector”. To Henry’s oldest sibling, Delbert, he
was the little brother whom he teasingly called “Oscar the Grouch” beginning when he was just a little
boy. To Keith, his youngest brother, he was a very close friend, and confidant.

Henry always maintained a close friendship with his dearest friend, Mary Smith, with whom he had
navigated life, and loved for many years in New Haven. Her son, Gerry, was the person for whom Henry
reserved his biggest smiles. Their visits, gifts and cards brought him many hours of joy during this past
year. Henry was formerly married to Beverly Adams, and the family appreciates her prayers and that of
her husband, Rich, on behalf of Henry and for our family.

During his time at Beechwood, Henry received the most amazing friends’ support, for which our family is
grateful, beyond what our words here convey. Junie his Norwich neighbor, and, Bobby from New Haven
with whom he played countless hours of chess are among the several friends who brought delight to
Henry with their visits. To “Church” and to your wife, your help to Henry is remembered. And thank you
Attorney Lonnie Braxton for formalizing Henry’s wishes-as a friend of our family.

His close friend from high school and college, Ernie Waddell, would drive from his Maryland home for
visits. And it was Ernie who kept the members of the Hope High class of 1970 informed about
Henry’s illness. They responded with rivers of love. Their continuing cards and letters from all over the
world, blessed Henry beyond measure; creating joy and a cushion from the daily challenges of living
with ALS. Thank you Hope High! You totally rock! One of Henry’s favorite memories was being able to
attend your 50 th class reunion, with Ernie’s assistance.

And our family will always remember that the Lord sent an angel in the form of a care advocate,
Maureen. Thank you! Your advocacy for Henry’s care gave him a since of his self-worth, and was
provided tirelessly, unselfishly and courageously.

To Henry’s roommate, Brion, and to his wife, Connie, -we are now family. You were an integral part of
Henry’s journey.

We also extend sincere gratitude to the men and women health care aids, nurses and various
administrative staff at Beechwood who spent many hours chatting with Henry, feeding and grooming
him, and making sure that his tv was tuned to Sunday football and Jeopardy and the Young Sheldon.
Henry always reminded us to keep his candy bowl full for your enjoyment. You treated him with dignity.
We acknowledge the cards, and candles and other ways you expressed your deep care for him.

Everyone has a superpower. Henry’s was listening to and encouraging young people. Most of his life’s
work involved interacting with teens whose lives had been impacted by various trauma. After moving to
Norwich, he was employed as a long-term substitute teacher at the former Three Rivers Academy, and
in the city’s middle schools. The family has received many moving messages from his former students,
and co-workers, who having learned of his passing through Facebook, expressed that they would always
remember his encouraging “straight talk” and ability to engage effectively with all students.

Henry found great comfort in prayer and listening to his sister, Sarell, lift up familiar gospel tunes. He
was comforted by an increasing inner peace; confident in the love of God towards him. His wishes were
simple-cremation, and no visitation or funeral services. The family will honor Henry’s life journey in a
special “Henryesque” celebration in May of 2024, which will include raising funds for ALS research.

If you would like to make a contribution toward a cure for ALS in Henry’s memory, please visit
alsunitedct.org. Your dollar added to another’s dollar, and another’s dollar… will create a huge impact.
On behalf of Henry, we say-thank you!