Former Illinois News Anchor, 42, Dies After Sudden Illness on Vacation with Her ‘Beautiful Family’

Lesley Swick Van Ness, a former news anchor for NBC affiliate WGEM-TV in Illinois, has passed away at the age of 42. Van Ness died on Monday after becoming ill while on vacation with her family in Florida, according to a statement from Gray Television, where she was working at the time of her death.

In a statement, Jennifer Dale, the Vice President of Recruiting at Gray Television, called the news of Van Ness’s passing “devastating” and asked that everyone “keep all of them in your prayers.” She wrote that Van Ness had been hospitalized on Thursday, and that her death was sudden.

Van Ness began her career at WGEM-TV as an intern and worked her way up to become an evening anchor, a position she held for almost nine years. According to her LinkedIn page, she joined the station as a reporter in 2003, became a weekend anchor in 2006, and finally landed the evening anchor role in 2008.

In 2016, Van Ness made a career change and became a corporate recruiter for Quincy Media, which was later acquired by Gray Television. At the time of her death, she was working as their director of talent acquisition.

Many colleagues who worked with Van Ness remembered her fondly and spoke of the impact she had on their lives. One anchor called her a “true cheerleader,” while another said that she was “fierce and driven, and equally loyal, compassionate and caring.”

WGEM meteorologist Brian Inman said that Van Ness was not afraid to put in extra hours and was always willing to do the “dirty work” if it meant helping the community. A colleague at Quincy Media said that Van Ness had helped countless journalists and employees find their first jobs in broadcasting.

In a tribute to Van Ness, WGEM-TV called her a “beloved member” of their team and said that they were “heartbroken” by the news of her passing. They shared that she had a passion for telling stories and was always looking for ways to improve herself and the station.

Van Ness leaves behind her husband, Tom, and their two young boys. The family has asked for privacy during this difficult time.

Van Ness’s death comes as a shock to many in the industry, and her colleagues are remembering her as a talented journalist and a kind-hearted person who was always willing to help others.