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Will County Executive Larry Walsh loses battle to cancer; leaves long career in public service and unique legacy behind

Will County Executive Larry Walsh

WILL COUNTY - Lawrence M. “Larry” Walsh, a loving husband, proud father and grandfather, faithful farmer, dedicated public servant, and lifelong Will County resident, died Wednesday evening at his home in Elwood, Illinois.  He was 72.

Walsh battled complications of prostate cancer for more than five years.  He was first treated for prostate cancer in late 2014 and continued to receive medical care in the following years.  In late 2018, he again began chemotherapy treatments for a reoccurrence of the cancer.  Walsh was a strong supporter of cancer research and a proud participant of the annual Will County Relay for Life.  He always encouraged others to get screened for cancer to obtain early detections of this disease.

Known for his strong commitment to serving his community, Walsh began his public service at age 21 on the Elwood School Board, which he followed ­as the Jackson Township Supervisor, a Will County Board member, an Illinois State Senator, and culminating as the Will County Executive, first being elected in 2004.  Walsh was the longest-serving County Executive and led the fourth largest county in the State of Illinois.

Walsh and his wife, Irene, are loving parents of six children and 20 grandchildren and have numerous extended family members who formed a strong network of service to their communities for many years.  Walsh always acknowledged the love and support he received from his wonderful family during his years of political life. 

Respected for his bipartisan approach at every level of government he served, Walsh prided himself in working collaboratively to find solutions to the challenges that were faced.  His longest tenure has been as County Executive where Will County built a strong financial foundation that improved the County’s bond rating.  That success led to the largest capital improvements campaign in the county’s history and sustained investments in roads and bridge infrastructure.  This campaign included a new Public Safety Complex and consolidated 911 dispatch center, a new County Health department facility, and a new Courthouse.

Sentiments from his peers are flowing in, noting his commitment to the residents of Will County and more than 50 years of public service.

“Larry’s passing is a tremendous loss to his family, certainly, but also to the community,” said Denise Winfrey, Speaker of the Will County Board.   “He dedicated his life to service. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve with him and learn from him. He touched numerous lives, forged alliances, and reached out to work with people from all walks of life. The work he has done speaks for him. Rest in peace Larry, job well done.”

County Board member Jim Moustis and Walsh began a friendship back in 1992 when they served together on the County Board.

“Larry loved Will County and being the County Executive,” said Moustis.  “He always wanted the best for the people of Will County and was a true leader.  I will sadly miss him and have had great respect for him, despite our differences at times.” 

Longtime Chief of Staff Nick Palmer worked with Walsh for many years, both in the State Senate and in Will County. He said Walsh is a perfect example of a public servant.

“Larry cared about the residents he served and never wanted to say no to a request for help. Larry is a one of a kind guy who always had a hearty laugh and smile for those he interacted with, no matter a person’s place in life.  He knew the cleaning crew and he knew the President of the United States Barack Obama.  He loved them all and always talked about the friendships he had made throughout his life in Will County.  His passing has left a huge void in this community and I will truly miss his friendship.”

Arrangements for Executive Larry Walsh will be announced once they become available.


What's Happening in Will County

Will County receives federal grant for second year to fund initiatives to stop opiate overdose deaths
Anastasia Tuskey

Will County receives federal grant for second year to fund initiatives to stop opiate overdose deaths

     For the second year, Will County was awarded the Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose Related Deaths grant by the Illinois Department of Human Services and funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to further its efforts in combating the opioid overdose epidemic. Will County is part of the Statewide Illinois Opioid Crisis Advisory Council.

     Dr. Kathleen Burke, the county’s Director of Substance Use Initiatives, said Will County has made significant progress introducing strategies to save lives. The grant-funded Narcan Distribution Program has trained 168 people between February and June. Each person trained received two free doses of Narcan. In 2016, all police departments in Will County were trained to deliver naloxone, the life-saving antidote that can reverse an opiate overdose. To date in 2017, naloxone has been deployed 16 times compared to 16 times total in 2016.

     “An overdose can occur anytime anywhere so it is critical we have as many people as possible trained to administer naloxone and save a life, especially folks who work with high risk individuals, family members, and substance users” Burke said. “I am overwhelmed by the level of commitment and interest I have received from our law enforcement personnel and community members. This is an important part of our harm reduction efforts.”

     Burke said the Will County strategy against the opiate epidemic includes prevention, harm reduction, treatment and long term recovery services. She is conducting an inventory of school programs offered in Will County and treatment services, including access to Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT).  It has been documented there is a shortage of treatment resources. 

     “To facilitate access to treatment we have worked with five police departments across the county to establish a Safe Passage program in which someone who struggles with an opiate addiction can come into the police department and ask for help without fear of prosecution,”   she said. “Through the partnerships we have established, the participant can be connected directly to a treatment program usually within 24 hours.”

     Despite all of these efforts, overdose deaths are increasing because of Fentanyl - a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. 

     “Drug dealers are mixing heroin with fentanyl and people have no idea what they are getting,” Burke said. “It is so powerful, it often takes more than one or two doses of Narcan to revive someone who has overdosed from fentanyl or a fentanyl-laced substance. We have a lot of work to do to continue to educate about the dangers of opiates, train the public on the use of naloxone, and expand access to treatment.”

     Will County Executive Larry Walsh commends Burke and the county’s efforts to address this opiate epidemic. He said the additional funding will be critical in continuing these programs.

     “We are thankful to the federal government for recognizing the success of our efforts and the fact there is much more work to be done,” Walsh said. “This battle is on a grass roots level and Dr. Burke has been very effective in building partnerships to help expand our efforts and save as many lives as we can. Will County remains fully committed to stopping overdose deaths and educating the public about the dangers of these terrible substances.”

     For more information on the county’s substance use initiatives, contact Burke at (815) 774-7486.

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Tribute to Will County Executive Larry Walsh
Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) pays tribute to the life and service of Larry Walsh Sr.

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Public Health & Safety Committee - 10:00 a.m.

Meetings will be held in the County Board Committee Room in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, unless stated otherwise. Meeting agendas and cancellations are available on the website www.willcountyboard.com. To contact us, email: countyboard@willcountyillinois.com or phone: 815.740.4602.

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Executive Committee - 10 a.m.

Meetings will be held in the County Board Committee Room in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, unless stated otherwise. Meeting agendas and cancellations are available on the website www.willcountyboard.com. To contact us, e-mail: countyboard@willcountyillinois.com or phone 815.740.4602.

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Executive Committee - 10 a.m.

Meetings will be held in the County Board Committee Room in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, unless stated otherwise. Meeting agendas and cancellations are available on the website www.willcountyboard.com. To contact us, e-mail: countyboard@willcountyillinois.com or phone 815.740.4602.

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Expanded Will County textile, shoe collection set for July 13-17

Expanded Will County textile, shoe collection set for July 13-17

Will County’s annual textile and shoe collection event, usually held in May, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 13, through Friday, July 17, at the County Office Building.

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Expanded Will County textile, shoe collection set for July 13-17

Expanded Will County textile, shoe collection set for July 13-17

Will County’s annual textile and shoe collection event, usually held in May, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 13, through Friday, July 17, at the County Office Building.

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Public Health & Safety Committee - 10:00 a.m.

Meetings will be held in the County Board Committee Room in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, unless stated otherwise. Meeting agendas and cancellations are available on the website www.willcountyboard.com. To contact us, email: countyboard@willcountyillinois.com or phone: 815.740.4602.

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Executive Committee - 10 a.m.

Meetings will be held in the County Board Committee Room in the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, unless stated otherwise. Meeting agendas and cancellations are available on the website www.willcountyboard.com. To contact us, e-mail: countyboard@willcountyillinois.com or phone 815.740.4602.

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