Joseph Sabo, the last person to be elected coroner in Merced County, died Thursday in Merced. He was 92.
Sabo was appointed as county coroner by the Merced County Board of Supervisors in 1981. He was re-elected to the seat for two four-year terms and retired from the job in 1991, according to his obituary.
After Sabo retired, the coroner’s office was eventually consolidated with the Sheriff’s Department as a cost-saving measure for the county, according to Mark Pazin, former Merced County sheriff.
Pazin, who early in his career worked as an emergency medical technician, at one time worked under Sabo. For many years, Sabo worked for his brother-in-law, Ken Riggs, as general manager of Riggs Ambulance Service. Sabo also worked as chief deputy coroner under Riggs from 1955 until 1981, according to his obituary.
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Sabo’s death leaves “a big hole in the Merced County community,” Pazin said. He recalled many first responders worked under Sabo, and he was a positive model. Sabo played a major role in helping smooth the merging of the coroner’s office with the Sheriff’s Department, he said.
“He was just fun to be around. He was a nice guy, had a great work ethic and (was) a good mentor in every sense of the word and I don't say that lightly,” Pazin said.
Flip Hassett, former executive director of the United Way in Merced, recalled Sabo as a dedicated community servant who belonged to many clubs and organizations, including the American Legion, Elks Lodge, Merced Rotary Club and Toastmasters. He was also past president of Our Lady of Mercy Dads Club.
In addition, Sabo served as chairman of Merced’s Recreation and Parks Commission, and was a volunteer for the Merced County Fire Department and the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. “He was a perfect example of what a community member is all about. He totally looked at the community as a whole, and that’s why I respected him so much,” Hassett said.
E.J. Almo Lorenzi, a friend for more than 60 years, described Sabo as someone who cared deeply for the community. Lorenzi said the last time he saw Sabo was at his wife’s 90th birthday party last year. “One thing about Joe was he was always friendly to everybody and he always had a smiling face and was a jovial guy,” Lorenzi said. “He was a wonderful, wonderful man and I am going to miss him very much. The community is going to miss him very much.”
According to his obituary, Sabo was born in Brownsville, Pa., and as a young man worked in coal mines with his father. He also worked on riverboats that traveled on the Monongahela River. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was stationed at Merced Army Air Field as a tech sergeant.
Sabo is survived by his wife, Rose Ann Eager Sabo; a sister, Teri Everson; a stepgrandson, Bill; a daughter, Jody (Art Quaster); a son, Kurt Sabo; stepchildren and stepgrandchildren.
A rosary will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 459 W. 21st St., and a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 671 E. Yosemite Ave.