According to Charles Hanley, about half the elected county coroners in Illinois also are funeral directors. He sees no reason Tazewell County can’t be among them.
“Not only have I been there to remove a beloved one from a home, but I’ve also cared for their loved one at the funeral home,” the Pekin funeral director said in declaring his 2018 Republican candidacy for coroner.
“Taking their loved one to the final place of disposition,” Hanley said. “Seeing that family in the grocery store, telling you they appreciated what you’ve done. That’s why I do it. That’s why my dad did it.”
Neale Hanley Sr. owned Preston-Hanley Funeral Home in Pekin, above which his family resided. The family included twin sons Charles and Buster.
“It was a house above a house,” said Charles Hanley, the 48-year-old father of a teenaged son.
The Hanley brothers now operate the funeral home, which also has a location in Creve Coeur.
Charles Hanley believes his experience in the funeral business and his interest in law enforcement — he has been a member of a police youth group and auxiliary — make him a good fit for coroner.
“I feel those are two allied fields,” he said.
The current coroner, Jeff Baldi, has resigned, effective in March, about halfway through his second four-year term. The 2018 election winner would fill the remaining two years.
Hanley is a trained mortician whose education included work for the Cook County medical examiner’s office in Chicago. He believes a mortician is well suited to coordinate a coroner’s duties. Those include working with families, pathologists and funeral homes, and processing toxicology reports.
The president of the board of the Tazewell Animal Protective Society said he plans to continue most of Baldi’s policies. An occasional public inquest — which Baldi doesn’t conduct, as a rule — might be necessary.
Hanley also said he would be proactive among schools in efforts to prevent premature passings.
“There have been a lot of unnecessary deaths, especially of younger people, due to drug and alcohol abuse,” he said. “I’d rather educate than have to bury.
“It gives me satisfaction knowing I can help someone. That’s why I respond at 2 in the morning. That’s why I’ve missed my son’s JFL football games. That’s why I’ve missed Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve learned to help others.”
This would be Hanley’s second campaign for coroner. In 2004, he lost in the Republican primary to incumbent Dennis Conover.
In this election, two other GOP candidates have emerged — Pekin firefighter Steve Bresnahan and deputy coroner Scott Price. No Democrats have declared their candidacy publicly. Petition circulation began Tuesday.