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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 officials explain county efforts in the opioid crisis to HHS Regional Director O’Brien
Anastasia Tuskey

Will County officials explain county efforts in the opioid crisis to HHS Regional Director O’Brien

The Will County Board hosted United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Regional Director Doug O’Brien at its Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, March 14. O’Brien provided an update about federal efforts in the opioid crisis and heard from several department heads about programs in the county.

O’Brien gave a brief history of overdose deaths across the nation with 78 overdose deaths from heroin in 1970 to 94 overdose deaths from cocaine in 1984 to 2,411 overdose deaths from opioid misuse in 2016. He said opioid overdose deaths surpassed all combat deaths in the 20th century.

“What is important today to recognize addiction is a physiological illness,” O’Brien said. “We must continue to expand access to naloxone and change regulations to increase capacity for recovery. The FY 2019 budget is allocating $10 billion in HHS opioids funding.”

O’Brien also reported a decrease in monthly prescribing practices by medical professionals of 24 percent between January 2015 and July 2018 and a 5,400 percent increase in naloxone dispensing during this same time period.

“There are signs of progress but we are nowhere near where we need to be,” he added.

Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt reported on the county’s Vivitrol program for incarcerated individuals and the specialty courts in the 12th Judicial Circuit. States Attorney James Glasgow and Drug Court Coordinator Julie McCabe-Sterr talked about the success of the specialty courts and the Drug Court recovery homes.

Dr. Kathleen Burke, Director of Substance Use Initiatives in the Office of Will County Executive Larry Walsh, talked about her work in the county under the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (DOPP) grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery which includes training the public how to deliver naloxone and bridging gaps in service. Sue Olenek, executive director of the Will County Health Department shared information about the services available and the department’s participation in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Deputy Chief Dan Jungles talked about the change in the culture of the sheriff’s office from enforcement to prevention, intervention, and treatment.

“We are proud in Will County to have all of these different department programs work together for the primary reason of saving lives,” Burke said. “This is a multi-level approach to educate people about the dangers of opioid misuse, help people access treatment, and plan for a complete recovery program that will become a successful way of life.”

Added O’Brien, “I am impressed with the collaboration in Will County. These branches of government, executive and judicial, are working closely together to ensure the safety of the residents. Will County is ahead of this issue on many fronts.”
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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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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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