There has been much written in the past few days about actor Chadwick Boseman and his four-year battle with colon cancer, but Kane County is also mourning the loss of a local hero who lost her fight after a two-year struggle with the disease.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office issued a news release this week expressing grief over the loss of Debra Bree, executive director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center, who died Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.
Bree joined the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office in April 2000, and spent most of her prosecutorial career working on behalf of children. She was first chair of the Juvenile Division before being named lead prosecutor of the Child Advocacy Center in January 2009.
In December 2012, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon named her the center’s executive director.
“We have lost a true guardian of children,” McMahon said. “I and the entire State’s Attorney’s Office are saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, and the pain and suffering that her husband, Joe Gay, and their family are going through.
“Deb was my friend and was an important member of my leadership team. I will miss her friendship and legal acumen, and the passion and perspective that she brought to the office.”
McMahon said Bree was a committed prosecutor and a champion of children and victims’ rights.
“For 20 years, she fought against child abuse, and she brought that same tenacity, courage and determination to her health battle over the last couple of years,” he said. “With her passing she has allowed peace and comfort to take over.”
The news release said Bree was respected by her co-workers, the legal community and the child welfare community for her experience, professionalism and leadership, as well as her commitment to the safety and well-being of children.
She grew up in Lincoln, IL, and was a graduate of Illinois State University and the DePaul University College of Law.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
16h Circuit Judge Clint Hull said Bree was well know for her work with the State’s Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office and court appearances on behalf of the citizens of Kane County.
“No matter how we met or got to know Deb, everyone walked away with the same impression — she was an incredible prosecutor and an even better person,” he said. “She was passionate about her work as the executive director of the Kane County Child Advocacy Center and invested countless hours on behalf of the children of Kane County. She was a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom — intelligent, prepared and charismatic. She could wow a courtroom with her passion and argument.”
Kane County Public Defender Rachele Conant said she worked with Bree during the course of her entire career.
“She was a fierce advocate but always nothing but professional,” Conant said. “She never had an unkind thing to say and always greeted me with a smile. Unfortunately, we do not get to say that about a lot of people in our lives. And for us, in this office, we will remember her professionalism and her kindness always. I will truly miss working with her.”