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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Coroner race attracts candidates


The pending retirement of Russell B. Lawrence III has encouraged more candidates than usual in the upcoming St. Lawrence County coroner race.

Four people, including incumbent June H. Wood, have announced their intention to run for the two available positions.

In addition to Ms. Wood, a Republican from Hopkinton, candidates are Democrat Eric J. Warner, Lisbon, and Republicans Kevin J. Crosby, Morristown, and Steven M. Cary, Canton. If all of the candidates file nominating petitions after July 8 with the county Board of Elections, a Republican primary is assured.

Democrat Brett D. Grandaw, who has run for the position in past elections, said he is bowing out of the race this year to focus on becoming a fire instructor.

Mr. Lawrence, Morristown, formerly of Canton, was first elected a county coroner in 1980.

“The last time I ran, I said that would be the last time. I’ve had it long enough,” he said. “It’s getting much more detailed than it used to be.”

Mr. Lawrence said he also is busy with his funeral home, IslandView Funeral Services, and with his R.B. Lawrence Ambulance business.

Mr. Lawrence said he has discussed the job with Mr. Crosby, chief of the Morristown Fire Department and village superintendent of public works. Mr. Crosby is also an emergency medical technician.

“I certainly believe Kevin would be an obvious choice if you’re trying to get a geographic distribution,” Mr. Lawrence said.

Mr. Crosby said he is used to being up at all hours.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to make,” he said. “We’ve gotten used to having a coroner on this side of the county.”

Geographic distribution is not essential because coroners serve the entire county, Mr. Cary said.

A licensed funeral director, Mr. Cary works at O’Leary Funeral Service, Canton, which is owned by Joseph E. White, Russell, another county coroner.

“I know with Joe it doesn’t matter where you are. Whenever there’s a call in your area, you’re usually somewhere else,” Mr. Cary said. “It’s a large county to cover.”

Mr. Cary said he believes his experience working with families of the deceased and volunteering with fire and rescue services in Canton and Potsdam qualifies him for the job.

Ms. Wood has been a coroner for more than 11 years and is in her third term. She retired from Alcoa in 2007 and is a licensed funeral home director, a member of the Parishville-Hopkinton Fire Rescue & Dive Team, a rescue squad captain in critical care, an advanced EMT with Tri-Town Rescue Squad and an instructor in advanced EMT at SUNY Canton. She assists at autopsies and is accredited as a medical/legal death scene investigator through the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners.

Helping the living get through what is often the worst time of their lives is fulfilling, she said.

“I find the work very gratifying,” Ms. Wood said. “The majority of our time is dealing with the families.”

Geographic distribution is just one part of finding the right candidate for the position, she said.

“It’s helpful to get a faster response, but we do travel all over the county,” she said.

Ms. Wood also participates in Stop-DWI drills that show students the dangers of drinking and driving in mock accident scenes. She creates some of the imaginary injuries on real people and then acts as the coroner at the drill.

“I think that’s a valuable program,” she said. “We can open their eyes.”

Mr. Warner, the only announced Democrat running, said part of his reason for running this fall is because of Mr. Lawrence’s retirement.

He is a licensed funeral home director, a stay-at-home father for his 2-year-old son and a church organist, and lives on a horse farm in Lisbon. His wife, Kiera, is a pharmacist at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, Ogdensburg.

“I became a funeral home director because I care about people. The timely and effective manner of taking care of the families is important to me,” he said. “I’m not employed. I can go wherever I’m needed.”

Each term runs for four years. Coroners receive an annual salary of approximately $6,000 and receive a benefit package, including health insurance.

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