- February 8, 2023
When Hamlet was musing, “to be or not to be,” he hesitated because death is the “undiscovered country”. Charles E. “Chuck” Kiessling Jr. is one who stands in the threshold of that mystery. As the Lycoming County Coroner, his duty is to determine the manner and cause of deaths that occur in his jurisdiction. But
When Hamlet was musing, “to be or not to be,” he hesitated because death is the “undiscovered country”. Charles E. “Chuck” Kiessling Jr. is one who stands in the threshold of that mystery. As the Lycoming County Coroner, his duty is to determine the manner and cause of deaths that occur in his jurisdiction. But since January 1, 2000, when Kiessling officially became the county coroner, he has taken the position that his job is broader than merely determining causes of death. His mission is to help as many people as possible live a long and healthy life.
Chuck Kiessling was born and raised in Williamsport, and from an early age had an interest in medicine. After high school, he worked as an orderly at Williamsport Hospital and decided to enroll in Lycoming College to study pre-med. But for a person who liked the action, the academics without practice was just too dry. So, in the early 1980s, he decided to go to Williamsport Hospital Nursing School to become a registered nurse. He had already been serving as an EMT with the Old Lycoming Fire Company, so upon his graduation from nursing school, he went to receive state certification as a Pre-Hospital Registered Nurse (PHRN).
From 1984-88, Kiessling worked hard in his multi-faceted role as an emergency room nurse, a PHRN on paramedic trucks, and then in his “free-time”, he volunteered as an EMT with the fire company. Somehow, he also found time in 1984 to get married to his wife, Gayle, and a few years later get the attention of the county coroner, George Gedon, who saw in this ambitious young man an excellent choice for deputy coroner, which Kiessling accepted in 1986.
Kiessling served in this capacity until 1997, when the county commissioners decided to appoint Chuck Kiessling to become county coroner “for a couple of weeks.” The “couple of weeks” as temporary coroner drug out into many months, and beside the cloud that he had to work under, it was also a challenge for other reasons. Chuck worked as coroner during the day and still worked as an ER nurse at night. Finally, In 1999, Kiessling decided to run for election as county coroner, a position he won and has held ever since.
It is a massive understatement to say that he has proudly represented his office and the county he represents. Elected in 2015 to serve as the President for the PA Coroner’s Association, he has also been the Liaison to the PA Coroner’s Education Board for many years. In addition to his responsibilities as Lycoming County Coroner, he serves as Adjunct Faculty for the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Buck’s County Community College instructing EMS and Death Investigation courses. And with all this, he is still a volunteer fireman, serving as Assistant Chief of the Old Lycoming Township Volunteer Fire Company.
Yet, when speaking to Coroner Kiessling about what he is most proud, he does not mention these accolades, but rather about one of his first initiatives in 2001. Together with Tom Marino who was the District Attorney at the time, they formed the Child Death Review team. One of the primary concerns were teen driving fatalities. Studies showed that the 29 driving deaths in the previous four-year period had not been due to drinking or drugs, but instead speeding and lack of seat belt use. Kiessling had a county map drawn up showing where these incidents occurred and the cause and had it distributed to schools throughout the county. The result was a drastic reduction in teen driving accidents.
It might seem ironic, but Kiessling is a coroner with concern for life. Besides the Child Fatality Review Team, he is also an active member of Safe Kids PA Lycoming County and has served as Chair in 2011. He established the Lycoming County Cribs for Kids Program in 2008 providing infant safe sleep education and providing cribs to needy parents throughout the county. Charles Kiessling is a coroner that wants everyone to have the best chance at life. The motto of the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office has been “Protecting the Living Through the Investigation of Death”.
NOTE: Information about the coroner’s office can be found on the Lycoming County website: lyco.org. A link to the maps that were created through the Lycoming County Child Death Review Team efforts can be found at http://www.lyco.org/Portals/1/Coroner/Documents/Map%202015.pdf.