Lesley Swick Van Ness, a 42-year-old news anchor at an Illinois-based NBC affiliate, was on vacation in Naples, Florida when she died suddenly after she fell ill and was hospitalized while vacationing with her family in Florida.
She leaves behind her husband and two children. Van Ness was both an anchor for WGEM-TV and also an executive for its corporate parent, Gray Television. She began working as a reporter for WGEM in 2003, became a weekend anchor in 2006, and finally became a weekday, evening anchor in 2008.
Her obituary, posted to Legacy.com, says:
Lesley Swick Van Ness, age 42, of Morton, Illinois, and formerly of Quincy, passed away on Monday, April 10, 2023, in Naples, Florida.
Born on December 28, 1980, in Macomb, Illinois, to Sterling and Jan (Johnson) Swick, Lesley was a 1999 graduate of Hamilton High School. She graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science Cum Laude from Illinois State University in 2003. While in college, she was a member of the ISU Department of Communications TV-10 news team. After graduation, she began her long and distinguished career in TV.
Lesley married Thomas Van Ness on June 2, 2012, at St. John’s Anglican Parish in Quincy. They have two sons, Sterling Thomas Van Ness, born in 2014 and Cameron Lyle Van Ness, born in 2016. Her family was everything to her and she was an exceptional mother and wife. Even though Lesley was not a baker or chef, her love of a good party theme transformed her into the best cake decorator for her boys’ birthdays. She was a determined parent who taught her children the importance of reading, safety, learning and loving. Together with Tom, their goal was to raise the most well-rounded young men they could, regardless of their boys’ lack of enthusiasm from time to time.
Lesley began her career at WGEM as an intern then full time in 2003 serving in the Macomb bureau before earning her first promotion to weekend anchor. She was promoted again in 2008 to the primary evening anchor for the newscasts at 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. and in 2010 began anchoring all three evening broadcasts. During her thirteen plus years at WGEM, Lesley’s work on air and producing newscasts was award-winning. Her dedication to the viewers and industry was exemplary and her smile and charisma made her a household name in the tri-state area. After her career on-air, she continued with Quincy Media as their first recruitment specialist.
Lesley was the consummate professional. With accolades and praise from colleagues all over the country, Lesley will be remembered with respect and admiration. In 2021, after Gray Television acquired Quincy Media, Lesley was asked to develop the recruitment division for Gray as its first director of talent acquisition. She created the foundation and blueprint for fellowship programs, paid internships, and opportunities for future journalists in over 113 television markets across the United States. Students in the hunt for careers in journalism sought Lesley out specifically as she fought and taught for students in their journey to become journalists.
Her marriage to Tom was full of adventure and she was a devoted partner. After dinner at the Tower of Pizza on June 5, 2010, their romance blossomed in every way. Together they enjoyed adventures like the three-day run up in Wrigleyville for the 2016 Cubs World Series win, all-night roundtrips to Duke’s appearance in the 2015 Final Four and their fifth NCAA title, lots of Dave Matthews and Bon Jovi concerts, shows on Broadway in NYC as well as the honky-tonks of Nashville. She and Tom also loved the beach and spent many happy trips to Marco Island, Florida or anywhere warm. However, their most enjoyable adventure was raising their boys together.
Survivors in addition to her husband and sons; her parents, Sterling and Jan Swick of Elvaston, IL; her aunts Joanna (Barry) Wright, La Harpe, IL, Cathy Johnson of Dallas City, cousins Megan (Chris) Atkinson, Charleston, SC and Jared (Kat) Wright of Charleston, SC, Marty (Julie) Gleason of Fairfield, IA, aunt Cathy (Blake) Haskins of Hamilton, IL, Uncles Tom (Jane) Swick of West Point, Terry (Pam) Swick of Cape Coral, FL, cousins Sara (Jade) Haskins of Keokuk, IA, Ashley (Michael) Kowall of Carpentersville, Amanda (Che’) Humphrey of Carthage, Todd Swick of Westpoint, IL and Amy Rea of Carthage, IL, Justin (Mindy) Johnson of Warsaw, IL, Andy (Melissa) Johnson of LaHarpe, IL, and Krista Johnson of Fairfield, IA, her nieces Brylee Cook of Montrose, Iowa and Allison Icenogle of Burnside, mother-in-law, Mary Winters of Quincy; her father-in-law, Jon (Tina) Van Ness of Columbia, MO; brother-in-law, Ben (Amanda) Van Ness of Quincy; sibling-in-law Jonathan (Mark Peacock) Van Ness of Austin, TX; a step sister-in-law, Jennifer (Don) Krutmeier of Quincy, and numerous other cousins, nieces and nephews.
She is preceded in death by her maternal grandmother; Annalee Johnson, her paternal grandparents, Vernon and Nellie Swick; her maternal uncle, Rick Johnson; her grandparents-in-law, Thomas and Anne Oakley, Albert and Judy Van Ness and step father-in-law Steve Winters.
There will be no formal visitation; however, friends and family are invited to attend the services and celebrate the life of Lesley Swick Van Ness.
Additionally, a statement was released by Jennifer Dale, VP of Recruiting at Gray Television. She said, “It is with a very heavy heart that we share some devastating news with you. 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.”
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