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Article posted: 7/4/2012 4:21 PM

Kane Coroner Chuck West dies after liver transplant

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Kane County Coroner Chuck West died early Wednesday from complications from a liver transplant, family members said.

West, 69, of Elgin, died shortly after midnight on July 4 at University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center, said his sister-in-law Adrienne Kalmes.

West, a Republican, was first elected coroner in 2000. Prior to that, he served as a deputy coroner for seven years, and also as a paramedic and grief counselor. He was not running for re-election.

At the time of his death, he faced felony misconduct charges that he allowed a television to be stolen from the home of a dead Carpentersville man. A Kane County judge appointed a doctor last week to evaluate whether West was physically fit to stand trial.

Defense attorney Gary Johnson said the June 4 liver transplant had been deemed successful initially. West suffered from nonalcoholic cirrhosis, and was in intensive care last week.

"Everybody was upbeat about it. When I was talking to (his wife) Lisa, she was very positive. I just think the turnaround was fast, over the weekend," he said.

West was a "great guy," Johnson said. "He was just a pleasure to be with -- a straight, upright, honest, great guy. I'm sad to see him pass. One of the benefits of being a lawyer is you get to meet people like him. It was my good fortune, even though under circumstances he wouldn't have wanted."

West was looking forward to proving his innocence, Johnson said. "That was one of his motivations for staying alive. He felt that was important, and obviously we can't do that now," he said.

Kane County Board member Mike Kenyon, who until April was the Kane County Republican party chairman, said he believes that West "was not himself" recently, because grave illnesses affect people not just physically, but mentally, too. "I think we need to cut him some slack and remember all the good things," Kenyon said.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said he was deeply saddened by West's death. "Sometimes he'd be up, sometimes he'd be down," he said of West's long battle with his illness.

West was considered one of Illinois' foremost authorities on national disasters, and even conducted trainings in emergency services for fellow coroners, Cunningham said.

"The majority of his career was about excellent public service. He did contribute to Kane County's success, and we should always remember that."

The Kane County Board will have to appoint West's replacement, and it will have to be a Republican like West, Cunningham said. Meanwhile, the chief deputy coroner will take on the office's responsibilities, he said.

West leaves behind his wife, Lisa, whom he had been married to for more than 20 years, and two children, Eric West and Tia Carroll, Kalmes said.

Visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Yurs Funeral Home, 405 East Main St., St. Charles.

The family is not releasing any more information right now, but is working on an obituary detailing West's life and career, Kalmes said.

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