Longtime Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg retiring | SteamboatToday.com

Longtime Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg retiring

Ryg has been with Routt County for 27 years, including 18 as coroner

Rob Ryg speaks at a candidates forum in North Routt County ahead of winning reelection as coroner in 2017. Ryg's retirement is set to take effect on June 30.
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Rob Ryg didn’t grow up dreaming to be a coroner.

“I never even thought of landing a job like this,” said Ryg, who is retiring after 18 years as Routt County Coroner at the end of June.

He and his family moved to Steamboat Springs from Chicago in 1982, having purchased a furniture manufacturing company. The goal was to mentor young people needing a job and direction in their lives.

In 1985, Ryg had started as a pastor at Euzoa Bible Church in Strawberry Park, just north of Steamboat, eventually taking over as the lead preacher. At that time, a friend of his who ran a funeral home asked if Ryg felt comfortable helping pick up a deceased person when the friend was out of town.

“I said, ‘Sure, I think I can do that,’” Ryg said. “After a while, he said, ‘Why don’t you become a deputy coroner,’ and so I did that.”

Ryg spent nine years as a deputy until the coroner before him planned to retire. Ryg was asked to fill the elected office until the end of the term. As the election approached, no one had expressed an interest in the job, so Ryg decided he would run to keep his position.

“I never set out to do a lot of things, but I had opportunity to do them, and I decided to give it a shot,” Ryg said.

Ryg said being a coroner is a job that is often surrounded by sadness. His main duties are to determine someone’s cause and manner of death, as well as notifying the family. In a small community like Steamboat, Ryg has often needed to give people he knows some of the hardest news of their lives.

“I’ve known a lot of families and their children. As a pastor, I married a lot of people here and have done a lot of funerals,” Ryg said. “It’s always a challenge when you come up to a scene and you don’t really know what it is, and find out that it is somebody you know.”

Ryg said his faith was a big reason he stuck with the job so long, and his faith has allowed him to look at death differently than many people do.

When he comes to a scene of a death, his faith tells him that person has moved on from their body, while he is there to represent the person and figure out what happened.

“That’s not because I’m cold and callous,” Ryg said. “I have a belief system that tells me what happens on the other side, so I’m not worried about death.”

On Tuesday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners approved Ryg’s retirement, which will become effective on June 30. 

In his place, commissioners appointed Mitch Locke, who has been Ryg’s deputy since 2005 and is funeral director at the Yampa Valley Funeral Home. Locke will start in the role on June 30 to ensure the county isn’t without a coroner. Locke, a Republican, is the only candidate for county coroner in November.

While it’s being called a retirement, Ryg said he doesn’t believe in that. This summer, he plans to travel, think about what is next for him and spend time with his family, including his two great-grandchildren.

“Retirement to me is not in the Bible, so you don’t go somewhere and kick seashells for the rest of your life,” Ryg said. “There’s something for me to do, and I’ll figure out what that is.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.