Death is Ralph Rossell's life

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FLUSHING (WJRT) (12/19/2017) - Few people in Flushing have experienced death more than Ralph Rossell.

He is close to marking five decades as a funeral director in the small town. Few people understand what his life is like, but Rossell is publishing a new book to give people a window inside his craft.

"I remember doing this one time when I was very young, you know," he said.

Mortuary service runs deep in Rossell's family tree. His father took over Rossell Funeral Home at 307 E. Main St. in Flushing after his uncle started the business in 1947.

"I was born the month my parents moved into the funeral home," Rossell said. "I grew up here, lived here even after I was married. Then I became the funeral director and I had been a licensed funeral director for 45 years."

He never planned to take up mortuary science as a career, but took the necessary classes to help his father -- then just never left the business.

Rossell remembers a bygone era when funeral directors brought all their equipment to the place where people died and placed the bodies on a cooling board with ice underneath to preserve them before embalming.

He has a small museum with old embalming equipment and tools used to restore the appearance of dead bodies upstairs at Rossell Funeral Home.

"One of the big things, oh I don't want to remember her like I saw her in the nursing home. They come in here and they're amazed at what we can do to restore their appearance," Rossell said. "We don't do that for the deceased, we do that for the family."

He began writing down the stories he's encountered through his life and career a few years ago at the urging of his family. Those are part of his new book, "The Life of Death: The Bare Bones of Undertaking," which is being released soon.

"I wrote a lot about ministers, churches, doctors, pathologists -- a lot of experiences I've had," Rossell said. "There's a lot in the book about families and you can imagine every family that walks in the door is a different set of circumstances."

Rossell said he's always been careful to treat every family the same.

"Death knows no holidays. I'm here when people need me," he said. hen they have a death, I'm here to meet their needs -- simple as that. My dad always told me, you treat families like you want to be treated, you will do fine and that's pretty much my philosophy."

Rossell's book will be from Barnes & Noble, and Google e-Books.

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