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updated: 2/22/2011 8:42 PM

McHenry student dies of unexplained illness

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A seventh-grader at McHenry Middle School died Sunday from an unidentified illness, McHenry District 15 officials said.

Twelve-year-old Gregory Henry became ill last week after performing during a pre-rehearsal Feb. 15 for Saturday's school concert.

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An unknown virus likely lowered Gregory's immune system, enabling two forms of bacteria -- MRSA and strep throat -- to eventually overrun his immune system, his father, Robert Henry, said.

In a note posted to the McHenry District 15 website, Superintendent Alan Hoffman did not say what the illness was caused by, but said the district has "thoroughly treated" the school and school buses with a chemical designed to eliminate viruses and bacteria, which could have led to the death.

Gregory became sick in the evening of Feb. 15 and had not been in school since, Hoffman said in the announcement.

"We were aware of the student's illness and hospitalization," Hoffman said Tuesday. "We took the proactive steps to clean the building and buses just as a precaution."

The health department said the treatment was not required.

"The school took it upon themselves to do this," health department spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush said. "It was not at the direction of the department."

In a statement released Tuesday, McHenry Middle School Principal Josh Reitz and Hoffman, said Gregory was a "fine young man."

"He was a good friend, a good brother, a good son and a good student, and we will miss him a great deal," the statement said.

His family said he was a fun-loving boy who enjoyed activities like sledding and riding ATVs and had a special affinity for the Green Bay Packers.

"He was a compassionate, Christ-centered, loving boy who put his friends first," Robert Henry said.

The Henry family lived in Wisconsin, and Gregory attended at least one Packers game a year from the the age of 5.

"We're trying to write to the Packers to see if we can get some of his ashes spread over Lambeau Field," Robert Henry said.

Hoffman said the district will have social workers and psychologists available for staff members and students who need assistance.

Gregory is survived by his parents, Robert and Mary Henry; siblings Jacob, Scott, Robin and Jennifer; his grandparents; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

The funeral will be held Friday at The Chapel, 25270 W. Route 60 in Grayslake.

A memorial visitation will be held from 5 p.m. until the 7 p.m. service.

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