Local NBC News affiliate anchor Lesley Swick Van Ness has died suddenly at just 42 years old, her family has announced.
The news reporter passed away unexpectedly while vacationing with her husband, Tom, and two young sons in Naples, Florida.
Van Ness, who worked as an anchor for WGEM-TV as well as an executive for its corporate parent, Gray Television, was pronounced dead on Monday.
Gray Television executive Jennifer Dale said in a statement that Van Ness suddenly “fell ill and was hospitalized last Thursday” while vacationing.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we share some devastating news with you,” Dale said.
“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.”
“In the eyes of a small community, she was a celebrity,” Tom and Neat Brower wrote in response to an online obituary.
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.
I will miss you forever, Lesley. pic.twitter.com/lX9zfn6slz
— Jenny Dreasler (@JennyDreaslerTV) April 12, 2023
Van Ness’ colleagues remembered her as a force to be reckoned with.
Former WGEM-TV colleague Matt Schmidt called her a “powerful personality” and a “commanding presence,” according to WGEM-TV.
“She was a powerful personality. She could walk into the newsroom and instantly take over,” Schmidt said.
“She just had a commanding presence about her. Sitting on the news desk was an awesome experience.
“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,” WGEM meteorologist Brian Inman said.
Her funeral will be held in Naples, Florida, on Monday at St. John’s Anglican Parish, according to her obituary.
No cause of death has been revealed.