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Illinois deputy with Wisconsin roots dies from COVID-19 complications

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BURLINGTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Burlington man who worked as a Sheriff’s Deputy in Cook, County Illinois, is now being remembered after losing his fight with COVID-19.

Fifty-three-year-old Rich O’Brien passed away May 3 after an almost month-long battle with coronavirus. He grew up in the Twin Lakes area.

His family only got to see him in the hospital a few times before he passed away.

“He was our everything,” his wife Cindi O’Brien, said. “He was everything to us. He’s an amazing man and he’s going to be so missed by us.”

O’Brien was a Cook County sheriff’s deputy for 27 years. He worked at a courthouse in Skokie, Illinois. His family says he contracted coronavirus at work. His death is being considered a line of duty death.

“He loved work, but he loved his family more,” Cindi O’Brien said. “If he wasn’t at work, he was home with us.”

Rich was a father of three who enjoyed being outdoors, walking, swimming, and camping.

“He was just a really fun loving guy,” his daughter Amy O’Brien said. “I miss the things I never thought I’d miss, like we’d be driving and he'd go to stretch but then like slap your leg and laugh about it.”

In early April, Rich tested positive for COVID-19 despite not having a fever at the time. Just a few months earlier he was diagnosed with leukemia, but his doctors were confident he would beat the cancer.

“The doctor was like I guarantee you will go into remission and won’t have it back for 10-20 years,” Cindi O’Brien said.

But COVID was too much for his weakened immune system.

“We were really, really careful,” Cindi O’Brien said. “It can happen to anyone and people have to be careful and take it more seriously than they do.”

O’Brien will be laid to rest in Wisconsin.

A fundraising page has been started to support the O’Brien family during this difficult time.

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