Memorial held for woman who drowned saving boys

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The services for Karen Wessel were private Saturday morning at an Arlington Heights church, but there was a public outpouring of love and support for her family and friends she left behind.

Hundreds filed in to Our Lady of the Wayside Catholic Church to remember Wessel, 47, a woman who they say gave everything she had to everyone.

“She lost her life, a life that was spent just giving,” Wessel’s friend Don Bussey said. “Now there are these two children that just are alone.”

Her children, Elizabeth Wessel, 17, and Michael Barr, 9, smiled when they spoke about their mother.

“She gave everything to my family and even the community,” Elizabeth Wessel said. “She was an amazing woman, and we’ll miss her.”

Karen Wessel was at her family home on Star Lake in Wisconsin on July 22 when she, along with her sister and a friend, decided to go for a swim. Her friend also had her three grandchildren with her. The grandchildren started to struggle in the water, and the adults each picked a child to save. Wessel died saving the 9-year-old’s life.

“Everyone’s looking for heroes. We had one right across the street,” neighbor and friend Barb McCoy said.

McCoy, along with the rest of Wessel’s friends, recalled story after story of her selflessness with her community and her kids.

“The life that she brought to the neighborhood, the life that she brought to the community can't be replaced,” she said.

Wessel lived across the street from her sister Janice, whose first and last phone call each day was to her sister.

“We have friends and family that have come in from all over the country that want to say hello and be supportive,” Janice said. “We are going to celebrate the fantastic woman that she was.”

A trust has been created to provide a college fund for her two children, whom she raised as a single mother. Contributions can be made at any branch of the Village Bank & Trust or through

RELATED: Arlington Heights mother drowns after rescuing three boys


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