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Retired funeral director turned author releases new book

  Recently retired funeral director Stephen Rocco has been utilizing his experiences in the funeral industry and background in psychology and counseling to write his first fictional novels published in June 2022: “The Ecstasy of Pupusas: Filled with Love” and “The Girl Who Woke Up in the Morgue.”

  “After 10 years in the funeral business, I wanted to use my skills as a family mediator, so I worked in the court system in Dedham for 15 years,” explained Rocco, a Saugus resident. “These varied jobs ultimately helped me in my writing because I combined my training in psychology with all the people I met. You learn about people’s struggles, grief, and resilience.”

  In “Ecstasy of Pupusas,” Chelsea, the lonely daughter of a wealthy physician, befriends Maria, the family’s housekeeper. The ladies share their dreams and bond over their love of pupusas, but when a horrible incident alters the families’ lives, Maria, an illegal immigrant, is exiled to her home country of El Salvador. “Their love for one another is challenged by a terrible act in Chelsea’s home, and both families are plunged into worlds of pain,” described Rocco. “The book is about healing, love, and forgiveness.”

  The fictional drama was inspired by a poignant conversation with Rocco’s neighbor, who, in 7th grade, was forced at gunpoint to join the Salvadorian military under the threat of his family being hurt if he did not comply. He eventually escaped through the Mexican desert, where he met his wife, became an American citizen and now manages a cleaning crew.

  In Rocco’s second novel, “The Girl Who Woke Up in the Morgue,” opiates are claiming the lives of youths in Springdale. When funeral director Sonny Fiorentino – modeled after Rocco’s father – realizes that overdose victim Kelsey Jordan is alive, he saves her, and the pair vow to expose those responsible for the opiate epidemic. “Sonny forms a friendship with the girl who woke up at his morgue, and they make it their mission to uncover a conspiracy in their town,” said Rocco, who set the novel in the early 2000s, when pills were promoted as safe and nonaddictive. “It involves doctors, pharmacists, street dealers, and runners. It was happening all over America.”

  The “Girl Who Woke Up in the Morgue” is based on a true story that happened to Rocco’s out-of-state colleague. The victim was so sedated and nonresponsive that she was declared dead by the medical examiner, which, according to Rocco, is unusual, as the victim would normally have been rushed to a hospital and had undergone sophisticated testing.

  “Around the late 90s-early 2000s, I noticed that I was burying three to four overdoses a year. The siblings and parents were stunned and didn’t know their kids had a drug problem,” remembered Rocco. “They might have had a sports injury or depression, and were put on a drug. Within two months, they were stealing from their parents; within three, they’re dead.”

  Rocco served for over 40 years as a third-generation funeral director at Salvatore & Sons Funeral Home, in Everett, where he grew up near Encore Boston Harbor casino. He taught at the mortuary school of Saint Ida College, Newton, and was the co-director of its National Center for Death Education from 1992-2018.

  Rocco has written an educational book for funeral service students about interpersonal skill development and another about conflict resolution in the court system. He is in the process of publishing his third novel, “Mystery of the Mausoleum.”

  “The Ecstasy of Pupusas” and “The Girl Who Woke Up in the Morgue” can be purchased online at www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesAndNoble.com. Rocco hopes to hold a book signing or reading for seniors in Everett, or a book club.

  “I think readers will enjoy the character development, good or bad. One of my characters is a narcissist with no sense of empathy. You learn how that person sees the world,” Rocco pointed out. “I think you’re able to see my heroines grow as people.”

  Rocco and his wife, Lidia, have four children, and three grandchildren. The energetic retiree exercises daily, lifting weights and walking along Breakheart Reservation and Revere Beach. He also enjoys golf and horse racing.

GirlMorgueCover Pupusa cover proof2

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