Ryg elected to be county coroner

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Last Tuesday, Routt County voters elected Rob Ryg as Routt County Coroner.

Ryg, who has been a deputy coroner for the past seven years, also is a pastor at Euzoa Bible Church, a position he has filled for the past 15 years. He has lived in Steamboat Springs for 22 years.

In his experience, there aren't that many coroners who also are pastors. When he tells people that he is both, they're typical response is, "Really?"

"It catches people off guard," Ryg said.

But being a pastor often goes hand-in-hand with being coroner, Ryg said.

Both jobs require being ready for calls in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning, when problems and crises often arise.

Both jobs require being around people at the basic defining life moments -- births, marriages and deaths.

As coroner, it is Ryg's job to determine why a person died and whether the death's circumstances could be questionable.

That means talking with doctors or other people who were with the deceased at the time of death, or requesting that experts in Jefferson County do an autopsy if a natural death is not crystal clear.

But being coroner also has a lot to do with the living, as it's the coroner's job to break what can be earth-shattering news to the deceased's family.

Most people do not like to think about death, Ryg said, and when confronted with it, they often are thrown into a difficult time of confusion, disbelief and sadness.

As a pastor, Ryg said he has had experience with people in those sorts of difficult times, and he can bring compassion and a different dimension to the job.

At the same time, he said, he is very careful to keep the jobs separate and never to press his beliefs onto others.

Being coroner, he said, "is not something you have a lot of people desiring to be involved in.

"But it's something that has to be done."

Ryg said he never imagined himself in this position. He got involved as a deputy coroner after helping out a friend who previously owned the funeral home in town. When the interim coroner position opened up last winter, he was asked to fill it and agreed.

He was asked and encouraged to run for the position this year. He was the only candidate for the position on the ballot, and he received 8,239 votes.

Ryg will serve a two-year term until the 2006 election, and he has yet to decide what he'll do then.

For now, he said, he is focused on serving professionally as coroner, using all of the classes, books and other resources he can to do the best job possible.

"This is just a part of life," Ryg said. "It's not the fun part, but it's a part of it."

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