LOCKPORT – Michael A. Ross, co-owner of two Niagara County funeral homes, is to be recommended for appointment to a vacant Niagara County coroner seat.
Ross, 52, of the City of Lockport, was chosen Tuesday night by a five-member search committee that interviewed four candidates to replace Richard W. Rutland, who resigned last month.
Ross, a Republican, said he will run for a full four-year term in November’s election in District 4, which covers the towns of Wilson, Newfane, Cambria, Lewiston, Porter and Niagara.
“I’ve always been interested in being a coroner. I grew up in a funeral home family,” said Ross, who is not related to Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield.
He said his grandfather founded Ross Funeral Home in Akron, and his father kept it going until it closed seven years ago.
Michael Ross and his brother then purchased Hamilton and Clark Funeral Home in Wilson three years ago, and the following year, they bought Gaul Funeral Home in Lockport. It’s now called Ross Funeral Home – Gaul Chapel.
“Availability was a key thing,” said Legislator David L. Godfrey, chairman of the search committee, when asked why Ross won the nod. “We didn’t want somebody who had an 8-to-5 job out of town.”
By being available steadily, he said, “you’re not calling on other people to cover your district.”
He also said Ross, as an active funeral director, has the equipment needed to remove bodies.
“I am empathetic with people. I care about the people left behind. It’s not just about the death,” Ross said. “Growing up in the funeral home business gives me a lot of insight into death.”
He said his grandfather and father had an ambulance business, too.
The other candidates considered were Tammy L. Broeker of Royalton, a licensed funeral director; Gary L. Darnell of Wilson, former Wilson Fire Company chief; and Troy A. Sellers, a Newfane High School history teacher who is also a Methodist minister.
Godfrey told the candidates that there are two other coroner seats available in this fall’s election, as the terms of District 2 Coroner Joseph V. Mantione, R-North Tonawanda, and District 3 Coroner Kenneth V. Lederhouse, R-Lockport, are expiring.
Coroners don’t have to live in the districts they represent. Each of the county’s four coroners is paid $17,500 a year.
“You don’t do this for the pay. You do it to give back to the community,” said Ross, whose nomination will go before the County Legislature for a vote Tuesday.