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Hasse in the business of helping families as coroner
Green County Coroner Kris Hasse sits inside her office at the Green County Courthouse in downtown Monroe, Monday, Feb. 24. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - It's not exactly the Hollywood image of coroners.

Green County Coroner Kris Hasse was pregnant when she went on her first call as a deputy coroner 17 years ago. Now, the mother of two serves as county corner, a position she's held for three years.

A lot has changed since she took over the job. The paper filing methods from years ago have been consolidated, but the files still take up a large portion of the small office space Hasse has in the basement of the Green County Courthouse. Hasse said the number of deaths per year has grown as well as the use of cremation. She also said there have been far more autopsies performed than when she started.

"I think it's from people not going to the doctor as much," she said.

Without a proper medical history Hasse said they need to do an autopsy to further investigate how the deceased has passed.

"I think it's because of the economy that they don't go to the doctor as much," she said.

Her office is cramped and the tan painted walls look yellow in the incandescent light. But Hasse said she doesn't spend much time there anyway - the coroner is a part-time job in name only.

"I'm out for eight to 12 hours on a serious call," such as for accidents or suicides, she said.

The coroner doesn't have to be on scene for every death in the county, but she is needed on any scene with suspicious circumstances. Even when a home death is caused by old age, Hasse may be called. She has three deputy coroners who share the burden of the workload and being on call.

"I've got a great team," she said. "They are all angels to me."

Part of her duties include pronouncing the time of death. But even that is usually estimated since she is rarely on scene at the exact time of death. Hospice nurses are allowed to pronounce time of death if the deceased passed away in a hospice, and doctors are also allowed, but Hasse said she has been called out several times to perform pronouncements.

She also is responsible in part for determining the cause of death. To do this she is given access to look through the deceased's prescriptions, check phones, look at bills or anything that will help determine how long someone has been dead and by what cause.

The toughest part of her job is notifying families.

"It's a hard time in their lives, and we are there to speak for the person who passed," she said.

While there are plenty of euphemisms for death, Hasse doesn't use bleak or harsh terms, she just says, "they passed."

She said she takes her job seriously and loves it, despite it being emotionally trying.

"We stay with the families if they need someone," she said. "We cry with families."

She also has to bring up organ donation to families of the deceased. If the deceased is an organ donor, he or she may not have verbally expressed wishes to family members, so it falls on Hasse to ask.

"It's our job to help the family and go by the victim's wishes," she said.

Hasse and her deputies are paid a fee per call and $1 for each hour they're on-call. Hasse also works with her husband for his land surveying business. She makes time to do speaking tours at the schools in the area and she used to work for Crimestoppers.

"I really love my job, I love to help families," she said.

County Coroner is an elected position for a term of four years and Hasse is up for re-election in November. She doesn't know if she will be running unopposed like three years ago, because the paper work is not due until June.

Hasse may love her job, but she said it hasn't made her callous.

"If it didn't bother me, that's when I'd know it was time to get out," she said.