John Mark Vinson, 34, has served as deputy coroner under his father since 1993.
“I grew up surrounded by this line of work,” John Mark said in his second-floor office at Goodwin Funeral Home last week. “It’s just been a way of life for me.”
It is not a line of work that is enjoyable, per se, but is one that is both a privilege and a rewarding experience, he said.
John Mark, a Trigg County High School graduate (class of 1990), received his associate’s degree from Nashville’s John A. Gupton College of Mortuary Science in 1992. Since then, he has investigated over 400 deaths as deputy coroner.
As he sees it, his job is to leave a family with no unanswered questions concerning the death of a loved one. His experience, he says — coupled with training seminars administered privately or through the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice on pediatric forensics, grief counseling and homicide investigations, among others — gives him the experience needed to definitively give a family closure.
“I think families deserve answers,” he said. “It’s a very devastating time.”
When asked what makes a good coroner, Vinson said, “First and foremost, you have to go into it with an open mind.”
As an official who must work hand-in-hand with city and government emergency personnel, John Mark said leadership capability is also important for any coroner. The ability also comes in handy when delegating responsibilities for investigating an accident or crime scene, he said.
John Mark is himself team leader of the nine-county Area Two Kentucky Coroners Mass Fatality Response Team (MFRT), and as such, found himself in New Orleans last summer helping recover those killed by Hurricane Katrina.
It was an experience, he said, that shed light on how a response to mass fatalities should (and should not) be handled.
“At least [I] have some idea of how things are supposed to operate,” he said.
If Vinson is elected over his opponent Clarissa King, he said he would remain as a member of MFRT for the training the group receives. He said he’s also been approached to join the Kentucky Coroners Association Board of Directors.
For those reasons, and also because Trigg County continues to grow, Vinson said he has decided he would appoint a deputy coroner.
“I don’t want to hinder our death-investigation ability,” he said. Vinson has not yet decided whether or not he would appoint his deputy in-house from Goodwin.
For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.