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Pierce County, meet your new ME

ELLSWORTH -- John Worsing, who was formally appointed by the Board of Supervisors Dec. 26, will succeed Sue Dzubay as Pierce County's medical examiner.

He served two years as deputy medical examiner and then the past two years as chief deputy medical examiner.

Worsing said the Pierce County supervisors asked him what two qualities he thinks are important for a medical examiner to have. He smiled at the thought of having to pick just two.

"Compassion is key to the job," he said.

Other essentials include being honest and observant, determining cause and manner of death, and acting as an advocate for the dead.

He nods in agreement that it is important for all medical examiners to use consistent standards for performing the work.

Asked what motivated him to take the ME job, Worsing said he decided to do it as a way to "give back" to his community. He's gotten to know most of the county's officers and procedures, developing good relationships and efficient professional dynamics.

He says the job of ME requires a mix of skills, including investigative -- "You gotta know what you don't know."

Worsing said he analyzes each death scene as if it were the "worst-case scenario." He approaches each case with the same high-urgency status so that nothing is missed or left to question, whether it be a natural or traumatic death.

Worsing lives with wife LaDonna in the town of Martell, where the semi-retired couple moved four years ago from New Richmond. They work together owning and operating Prairie Road Farms, which features Tennessee Walker horses, Boer goats and Katahdin sheep.

John said he has family in St. Paul. LaDonna is from North Dakota where they often visit and help with the family farm. She is also a photographer specializing in pictures of rural life, animals, farms and landscapes.

The two settled in western Wisconsin after living in many different places -- including Seattle, San Francisco, Washington and East Coast locations -- during their 31-year marriage and his career as a doctor of veterinary medicine.

He said he took his father's advice to retire early, and the couple adores their country life.

"We can't speak highly enough of the county," said Worsing.

Asked how he became a medical examiner, he says LaDonna was looking for work and told him he should "get out there and challenge himself." She'd seen the deputy examiner job advertised for quite a while.

He said his initial impression was that the job had to be filled by a physician, but he soon learned that others can qualify and attend specialized training. He applied, was accepted and says he learned many interesting things during his training in New York City.

The new medical examiner said he also handled some difficult cases early in his career, orienting him quickly to the job's most difficult aspects.

An upside to the job is working with great and professional people in the ME's office and Pierce County, said Worsing. The staff of three gets along well and is comprised of him, Sue Dzubay as chief deputy and Jenny Scott as deputy.

Unlike many folks, Worsing can't usually talk about any aspects of his job.

"The only time we can talk about it is if it becomes public record," he said.

He characterizes LaDonna as "phenomenally supportive" of him doing the job -- always understanding when he has to dash away from the house at odd hours for varying lengths of time to do a job he can't talk about.

He says the two have achieved a contented happiness on their farm with wide-open spaces and creatures they enjoy.

"We're just so happy to be out here," said Worsing.