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News anchor dies suddenly at 42 while vacationing with family

An ambulance (Minnesota National Guard photo by Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh)
April 14, 2023

An former news anchor for a local NBC News affiliate in Quincy, Illinois died suddenly on Monday while on vacation with her family in Florida.  

According to WGEM, Lesley Swick Van Ness became ill and passed away suddenly at the age of 42. She is survived by her husband, Tom, and her two sons.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we share some devastating news with you,” said Jennifer Dale, VP of Recruiting at Gray Television. “Lesley Van Ness, who we have been so fortunate to have as part of the Gray family, passed away this (Monday) morning. Lesley had been on vacation with her beautiful family in Florida when she fell ill and was hospitalized last Thursday. Lesley and her husband Tom have two precious young boys. Please keep all of them in your prayers. We will keep everyone posted on arrangements.”

Van Ness joined WGEM in 2003 as a reporter before becoming weekend anchor in 2006 and weekday evening anchor in 2008. She later became a recruiter for the station.

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”She was a powerful personality. She could walk into the newsroom and instantly take over. She just had a commanding presence about her. Sitting on the news desk was an awesome experience,” her colleague Matt Schmidt said.

WGEM meteorologist Brian Inman said, “She wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work and wasn’t afraid to work the extra hour, especially if it was something that was really impacting the community.”

Colleague and anchor Jenny Dreasler shared a photo of Van Ness on Twitter.

“My heart is broken. Lesley Van Ness was not only my first anchor I worked under as a reporter, but my mentor, a protector and my friend. I ache for the Van Ness/Oakley families. Please pray for Tommy and the boys. This will never make sense,” Dreasler wrote. “I will miss you forever, Lesley.”