Illinois’s former newscaster Lesley Swick Van Ness has passed away. 42 years old.
She passed away on Monday after suffering a sudden illness while on vacation with her family, according to WGEM-TV, the station where she worked for over a decade.
“Lesley had been on vacation with her beautiful family in Florida when she fell ill and was hospitalized last Thursday,” Jennifer Dale, the vice president of recruiting at Gray Television, where Van Ness was employed at the time of her demise, said in a statement, as reported by Muddy River News.
“It is with a sorrowful heart that we inform you of some tragic news. This morning, Lesley Van Ness, a member of the Gray family whom we were so privileged to have, passed away,” Dale wrote. “Lesley and her spouse Tom are the parents of two adorable young boys. Please say a prayer for each of them.”
According to her obituary, she passed away in Naples, but no additional information was provided.
According to her LinkedIn page, Van Ness began her career at WGEM-TV as an intern after graduating from Illinois State University. She was employed by the Quincy station after she completed her internship.
In their obituary, the station noted that she first joined them as a correspondent in 2003, then as a weekend anchor in 2006, and then as an evening anchor in 2008.
She wrote on LinkedIn that she held her previous position for nearly nine years.
As her “family priorities changed,” Van Ness made a career transition in 2016, becoming a corporate recruiter for Quincy Media, which was acquired by Gray Television in 2021.
“Now, I have the incredible opportunity to grow Gray’s recruitment initiative into one of the best in this industry,” Van Ness, who was the company’s director of talent acquisition at the time of her passing, wrote on LinkedIn.
As they reflected on the influence she had on them personally and professionally, many of Van Ness’s coworkers were saddened by her passing.
WGEM meteorologist Brian Inman told the station, “She wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work or work the extra hour, especially if it was something that had a significant impact on the community.”
A colleague at Quincy Media stated that she “helped countless journalists and employees find their first jobs in broadcasting” and “was the picture of health, positivity, and energy.”
Sharing a story that exemplifies “her heart,” journalist Jenise Rebholz wrote that after she announced her own pregnancy, Van Ness “handed me a stack of 20+ maternity work dresses she no longer needed.”
Rebholz added, “She did not ask for anything in return.” “She delighted in assisting the younger generation of journalists, notably females. She was an exemplary cheerleader.
Natalie Will, who began interning at WGEM on the same day as Van Ness, wrote, “From the first conversation I had with her, I knew she was a force to be reckoned with.”
“She was ferocious and self-motivated, as well as loyal, compassionate, and caring,” said the newscaster. She will be tremendously missed.”