McHENRY – For 24 years, it was Marlene Lantz’s job to help families going through difficult times when a loved one passed.
Someone is helping her family this week after the former McHenry County coroner died from heart failure. Lantz was 70 years old.
Lantz wrapped up a 24-year career as McHenry County coroner five years ago after not seeking another term in 2012.
“I loved seeing the passion that she put into her work,” Lantz’s brother, Alan Wilson, said. “She would get extremely emotional dealing with certain cases like death investigations. I could see that she loved what she was doing, but it’s a very tough profession. She worked hard to comfort friends and family members and kept in touch with many of them after the death of their loved ones.”
Lantz moved to Rensselaer, Indiana, in the spring after being familiar with the area and having some friends there, Wilson said.
“She really wanted to get out of McHenry County,” Wilson said. “She didn’t like the politics.”
After high school, Lantz attended Elgin Community College for about a year before attending mortuary school. After working in a funeral home, she became a morgue assistant and helped with autopsies.
She received her professional license in 1970 and worked for Advocate Sherman Hospital and Presence St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin and Wait-Ross-Allanson Funeral Home in Algonquin until she became chief deputy coroner under Alvin Querhammer in 1980.
In 1988, she was elected McHenry County coroner. Wilson said her favorite part of the job was investigating how deaths occurred and trying to find ways to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.
“It gave her such a great feeling to know she was helping people who just lost loved ones,” Wilson said. “She felt like she was helping and that was a wonderful feeling for our entire family. Anytime you feel like you can help take pain away from someone and help them get through dark days, that is what we all strive to do and it keeps us going. She was a very compassionate person.”
Lantz was indicted in 2015 on official misconduct and forgery charges after prosecutors said she failed to properly dispose of two fetuses that were kept in the coroner’s officer for more than two decades. Prosecutors argued that Lantz should have buried the remains, cremated them or donated them to science.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt ruled that the duty to bury was directory and not mandatory, and the charges were later dismissed.
Lantz died Oct. 5 at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, Indiana.
A memorial gathering will be from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Schneider-Leucht-Merwin & Cooney Funeral Home, 1211 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock.
“She was loved by many and gave everything that she could to help people through difficult times. That is what her legacy is,” Wilson said.