Will County has lost an icon as WJOL has learned that County Executive Larry Walsh has passed away at the age of 72 years old. Walsh was born on March 3rd 1948 in Joliet, Illinois. He graduated from Joliet East High School in 1966 and continued his education at Joliet Junior College where he received a degree in 1968 in business and agriculture. In 1970 he was elected to his first of what would be many public positions after winning a race for a seat on the Elwood School Board. Just three years later, Walsh was elected to serve as a Jackson Township Trustee. Walsh was also elected to the Will County board on two separate occasions, in 1974 and then in 1992. From 1997 to 2005 he served as an Illinois State Senator for the 43rd District and served with future President Barack Obama, when the latter served in the state senate from 1997 to 2004. Walsh returned home to Will County in 2004 when he was elected to the position of Will County Executive, a position he continued to serve in until his term was due to expire later this year. He was re-elected to the Executive seat in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Some of his accomplishments at Executive include the not-yet-complete construction of the Will County Courthouse, the new Will County Health Department Building and a new facility for the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
He was also a dedicated family man as he and his wife Irene had six children (Larry Jr., Frank, Matthew, Sarah, Shawn, Brian) and 20 grandchildren. Other than his passion for his family and serving his community, he was also a proud farmer and operated a small piece of land in Elwood for many years. Arrangements have not yet been made public. This is a developing story.
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 which 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 inthis community and I will truly miss his friendship.”
Below is a photo gallery of some of Larry’s moments with WJOL and in the community.