Coroner’s good deeds did not go unnoticed

Published 10:28 am Friday, January 5, 2018

You do not know me, but I have witnessed the best of whom you are.

I received a call at 11:30 on Dec. 7 that my husband had died at the Clark County hospital while on a business trip.

Throughout that morning and the long drive up to Winchester — a place I did not know — I was in touch with the Clark County coroner, Robert Gayheart.

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His demeanor on the phone was kind and gentle. He knew I needed to say goodbye and see my Billy, but he was also charged with coordinating the donation of Billy’s corneas and tissues — a process that needs to happen fairly quickly after death.

Mine was an odd request, to see the body in between donation and cremation, but he managed it all with no complaint.

When we arrived in Winchester, we went to his office to fill out paperwork and hopefully see the body.

Robert was even more kind and comforting in person and walked me and my brother-in-law and two friends through everything, allowing us to take our time.

Billy’s body had yet to be transported and, as luck would have it, ended up in a bit of a snafu that Robert handled with care and grace with us, and with a firm admonishment of the transport company.

“This is not how we take care of grieving visitors who drove 7 hours to see their loved one,” he said.

We finally were able to see Billy’s body around 9 p.m. that evening, way past any normal office hours for anyone.

Over the next few weeks, Robert texted to let me know he was praying for my family, to answer my questions regarding death certificates and cause of death.

He was always accessible, and never impatient with my questions or my tears.

You all have a good man as your county coroner. He is compassionate and respectful — dedicated to a job that is only part-time, but he certainly went above and beyond for my family and for my Billy.

When I discovered his office was up for re-election, I felt compelled to write this letter to let you all know about this jewel of a man in your community, and to urge each of you to keep him in service as your county coroner because you should always treasure the goodness in your midst.

Susan Johnson Smith

Greensboro, NC