Parks Evans has served as Greenville County coroner for nearly three decades, a tenure that he says still surprises him.
Here are his thoughts on the job, what it’s taught him after all these years, and why he’s still passionate about the work.
What’s the best part of your job? The worst?
The best part of my job is when we’ve handled a case and brought closure to the family that lost a loved one. To have them come back and say they appreciated how we were a comfort to them in a time of grief is the most rewarding aspect for me. Having said that, the worst part by far is notification of next-of-kin of a person’s death. Generally they have no idea that their loved one was in any danger of passing away, and you have to be the one to break that news to them. There’s just no easy way. All you can do is be there for them and answer any questions.
What are some things people might not know about your job?
A lot of people think all we do is go out and pronounce death, but we actually play a key part in the investigation itself. When we get a case, we go to the scene to investigate and determine the cause and manner of death. We document everything, photograph and collect evidence. We have a pretty big job as far as the forensic side of things goes, from collecting DNA, to blood and urine samples in traffic incidents to test for drugs or alcohol. We also do a lot of speaking to the public to help educate them about what we’re seeing out there and how they can take precautions to keep these tragedies from happening to them.
What’s a typical day like?
No day is exactly the same, but we hold meetings each morning to go over all the cases we’ve had in the last 24 hours. When cases come in, we go to the scene. We talk to families daily to answer questions and also to handle any belongings a person had on them at the time of death. We answer calls all day long. When I first started out, we sometimes went two or three days without a case of a death. Now we can get as many as four or five cases a day.
How has your job changed you personally?
It used to be the thought of death just frightened me. Thinking about dying was something I just avoided doing. But when you deal with it day in and day out, you know it’s something that’s going to happen to everybody at one point or another, and you start to look at death a little differently. It made me live my life differently, too, just trying to be sure I complete every day to the fullest because I might not be here tomorrow. It’s made me appreciate the time I have.