A local college instructor is pitching a bid for the office of Bulloch County coroner.
Ogeechee Technical College funeral services instructor Michele Fiorelli-Rupar, a Democrat, said she feels her training and experience would benefit Bulloch County’s bereaved.
Fiorelli-Rupar came to Statesboro in 2014, but she started at Ogeechee Tech the year before, having lived in Springfield, Georgia, previously. She is originally from Cleveland, Ohio.
In addition to several degrees in sociology and psychology, she also holds licenses and certification in funeral services and grief counseling. However, she feels her personal experiences have helped shape her ability to help those dealing with loss, she said.
Being coroner involves more than “signing death certificates,” she said. In addition to determining causes of death and the forensics of being coroner, there is also the responsibility to help families and even the public deal with emotions that come with the death of a loved one.
Fiorelli-Rupar was widowed a few years ago, and in dealing with her own loss, she realized that people who show their concern and understanding are important. Several years before that, her first husband’s former wife was “brutally murdered in Ohio” in a highly publicized case. Fiorelli-Rupar said she helped her stepchildren cope with the tragic loss of their mother.
“About five years ago, I started feeling led to run,” she said. “I am very spiritual and interested in serving the community, which is very important to me.”
Seeing an “incredible need” in Bulloch County for grief counseling, helping the public deal with murders and tragic deaths, Fiorelli-Rupar said she feels she “has a handle on what families need.” Having seen what was lacking in Ohio and elsewhere during her own losses showed her that “things can be done better.”
She has filed her intent to qualify with the Bulloch County Board of Election. Qualifying will be in March, with the primary election held May 19.
Fiorelli-Rupar holds an associate’s degree in applied science (funeral services education) from OTC, a Bachelor of Arts in sociology (with concentration in cultural diversity) from John Carroll University, and a master’s in psychology from the University of Phoenix. She also is a certified grief counselor and funeral service practitioner and licensed in Georgia as a funeral service director and embalmer. She is also a licensed funeral services director in Ohio.
She has four adult children and enjoys watching her grandchildren play hockey, reading and travel. Fiorelli-Rupar is a member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church. As an educator, she “always looks for ways to connect to people,” she said.
Fiorelli-Rupar will face another Democratic challenger, Jonathan Paine, in May, said Bulloch County Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones.
Both Paine and Republican incumbent coroner Jake Futch have filed intent to qualify, she said. The winning Democratic candidate in May will face Futch in November.
Information about Paine and Futch will be published in future articles.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.