Coroner humbled by award

Contributed photo

Pictured from left are: Sara Cornelison, Jill Cornelison, Jimmy Cornelison, David Jones, former director of the KY Coroner/Medical Examiner Program, and Jenna Cornelison.

Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison isn't normally a person who's gets got, but he'll be the first to tell you that was the case at the Kentucky Coroner's Association's conference earlier this year.

Each year, the Kentucky Coroner's Association meets to discuss the Wolfe Award, which is given in memory of David J. Wolfe, "the first forensic anthropologist employed by the KY State Medical Examiner’s Program," according to a news release. "The Wolfe Award is regarded as the most prestigious honor an individual can receive from the Kentucky Coroner’s Association."

Cornelison was the president of the association for 2018 and 2019, and he had already talked with other association members about selecting a recipient.

"I had this name in my mind, and they said, 'Oh, that'll be fine,'" Cornelison said.

At the conference, coroners and deputy coroners from all over the commonwealth met, and the presentation before the recipient is announced starts on a big screen, he explained.

"It starts off with a song, and they had researched this through your family to pick a song that means something to you," Cornelison said. "The name of the song was Sara, that's the name of my daughter, and I thought, 'Well, what about that?'

"Then, all of a sudden, they show all these pictures, and I saw myself on the screen and my daughters. … I turned around, and there are my two daughters and my wife. I had no idea they were anywhere near the conference. … I started piecing it together."

Then of course, they announced the award was going to Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison.

"I was absolutely dumbfounded, absolutely," he said. "You could have knocked me over with a feather."

It's also a very special award to Cornelison as he knew Wolfe personally, having worked some cases together. Among several titles, Cornelison said he was a mentor as well as a pioneer before his time.

Cornelison said the two met through the medical examiner's office, probably in the late 1980s.

"We had some cases where his expertise was needed. He was a very, very intelligent man," he said. "It was very flattering. It humbled me. When you're recognized by somebody you think so much of, it really makes you think."

According to Brian Ritchie, executive secretary for the association, "Jimmy was chosen for his dedicated service and representation of the Kentucky Coroner's Association."

Ritchie also noted Cornelison "has a consistent demeanor in dealing with families and a proven course of action in his investigative skills."

However, Cornelison hopes that him receiving this award means more than that.

"I hope that this is a reflection not just on me and what I've done or haven't done, but of progression of our county, progression of our department, and how we conduct ourselves with families, with investigations," he said.

Cornelison added that he hopes it also reflects on the hard work his staff does.

"I hope it brings credit to the coroner's office in Madison County. We work really hard to make this a professional organization."

Reach Sara Kuhl at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @saraekuhl.

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