News Anchor, 42 Dies While on Vacation

The life and legacy of a beloved local news anchor in Illinois came to an end on Monday in Naples, Florida.

Lesley Swick Van Ness, a news anchor and executive for Gray Television passed away at the age of 42 after falling ill and being hospitalized while vacationing with her husband and two young sons.

Jennifer Dale, the VP of recruiting at Gray Television’s corporate parent, WGEM-TV, expressed her sadness at Van Ness’ passing.

“As anyone who had the privilege of working with Lesley knows, she was a powerful personality with a commanding presence,” said Matt Schmidt, who anchored at WGEM-TV from 2007-2014.

Van Ness started as a reporter at WGEM-TV in 2003 and eventually worked up to a weekday news anchor in 2008. In 2016, she became the talent acquisition specialist for Quincy Media until 2021, when Gray Television acquired them.

In addition to her Emmy-nominated reporting, Van Ness was remembered by her colleagues for the extra hours she was willing to put in to help make an impact.

Tom and Neat Brower expressed the sentiment of a small community who regarded Van Ness as a “celebrity,” noting the integrity with which she did her job and the place she holds in the hearts of many.