LOCAL FOLKS: Retired Tippah County coroner turns to fun pursuits

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

RIPLEY – The end of a long and productive career as Tippah County’s coroner and ambulance service director holds many rewards for David Hubbard.
On any given day you’re likely to see the 57-year-old Ripley native tooling around in his bright blue restored 1955 Chevrolet with red flames gracing the hood and front fenders, accompanied by his wife Marilyn and their Shiatsu dog Champ.
Leisurely days are a new experience for Hubbard, who until Dec. 31, 2011, spent almost 36 years caring for the sick, injured or dead in Tippah County.
He counts the greatest reward of his career as “being able to help people in the time of their greatest need, knowing you played a part in helping somebody.”
Hubbard was part of the Tippah County Hospital’s ambulance service since its inception. He was first hired as an orderly at the hospital in 1975, then within a couple of weeks was sent for training as an emergency medical technician when the hospital took over ambulance service from Ripley Funeral Home.
“We stayed a basic service until 1990 when we were upgraded to intermediate service,” Hubbard said, meaning the EMTs could start IVs and cardiac monitors.
The ambulance service experienced another upgrade to paramedic service in 1998, the year Hubbard became the director.
He was already serving as coroner, having been elected in 1996. He had worked as a deputy coroner to Neil Bateman, and ran for the office after Bateman decided not to seek re-election.
The years were rewarding in service to the community, but also had some unexpected and interesting learning experiences.
* He met and participated in a workshop given by Dr. Michael Baden, medical examiner on the HBO series “Autopsy,” when Baden presented the evidence he had gathered in Mississippi’s prosecution of Byron De La Beckwith in the murder of Medger Evers.
* Heard Los Angeles Police Detective Phillip Van Atter present information at a coroner’s conference a few years ago on the O.J. Simpson case.
* Attended a workshop presented by former FBI agent Robert Ressler, known for his interviews with more than three dozen serial killers, including the infamous John Wayne Gacy who was executed in Illinois in connection with the deaths of more than 30 young men.
Though Hubbard’s career didn’t include any dramatic cases like these, there were far too many car accidents – fatal ones, especially with children involved – that “stay in your head,” he said.
The years have been kind enough to leave him with good health, and his wife Marilyn has supported him every step of the way.
“I couldn’t have done it without her, putting up with having to go out in the middle of the night, leaving family functions and being absent on holidays,” Hubbard said.
She knew something about what he faced, having been a nurse at Tippah County Hospital for 14 years before becoming a member of the nursing faculty at Northeast Mississippi Community College. She retired in mid-2011.
Their health care professional legacy continues with their children.
Their daughter, Lauren Pierce, whose family includes husband Josh and a daughter, lives in Myrtle and is a nurse at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. Their son Jason, with his wife Leandra and their two daughters, lives next door to David and Marilyn Hubbard in Ripley, and he works as an X-ray technician at Tippah County Hospital.
Now the Hubbards have plenty of time for grandparent duties as well as spending more time simply being together.
“I have the freedom now to do a lot of things,” he said. “We got back not too long ago from a trip to the mountains, and it’s the first getaway on our own for a long time.”
Before life got so hectic Hubbard said he loved to fish for crappie, and he hopes to get back to that. He’ll also be looking to participate in some antique car shows.
“We have the freedom now to do a lot of things,” Hubbard said. “I’ve seen too much death and realize how short life is. I want to get out and do things while I can.”
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com