A Wauconda police officer died Sunday afternoon after a seven-year battle with cancer.
Eric Schultz, 30, died at a JourneyCare hospice center in Barrington, according to a 5:05 p.m. post on the Eric Schultz Benefit Foundation Facebook group, which is operated by Eric's wife, Crystal Schultz.
Crystal wrote, "Our sweet Eric is with the angels now." More than 140 friends, family and fellow police officers commented and expressed their condolences in the first few hours.
Wauconda Police officer Jim McClain posted: "Everyday I go to work, I will remember that great smile and love for being a cop. ...Wauconda lost one of the finest officer, and we lost a great friend."
Schultz was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common pediatric type of bone cancer, in November 2007. Just 24 at the time and having spent less than a year on the force, he decided to have his right foot -- to which the cancer had spread -- amputated so he could continue to work with a prosthetic.
Wauconda Police Chief Patrick Yost said everyone at the police station always treated him the same when he returned to work after the chemotherapy and operation.
"Your fellow officers and workers at the station become a bit of a family, You support them all the time," Yost said. "We're certainly going to do whatever we can to support his family now."
Based on Schultz's own words, the Wauconda police department did just that.
"It doesn't really feel like I left," Schultz told the Daily Herald in 2009. "The guys don't treat me any differently."
Yost said Schultz stayed on the force until February 2010 when the cancer returned in his right hip and his lungs. He had more surgery and radiation treatments and was back at work later that year.
Yost said Schultz only took limited time off from work despite needing further treatment following a scan in 2011 that showed the cancer in his lungs was not improving.
His last day on the job was Aug. 1, 2013.
"From the minute I met Eric, I really thought about him in a different way," Yost said. "He always had a very positive 'can do' attitude."
Yost said Schultz's attitude showed in his hard work on the job despite his battle with cancer.
"Eric didn't particularly like sympathy," Yost said Sunday night after Eric died. "He just wanted somebody to be a friend."
A half-hour before he died, Crystal Schultz posted on the benefit foundation Facebook page that information on the memorial at the Kisselberg-Wauconda Funeral Home will be forthcoming.
"Eric knows everyone loves him," Crystal wrote. "Take comfort in knowing that he will always be with us, watching over us like the protector that he was born to be."