News anchor, 42, dies while on vacation

On Monday, the life and legacy of Lesley Swick Van Ness, a beloved news anchor and executive from Illinois, came to an end in Naples, Florida. Van Ness, aged 42, was vacationing with her husband and two sons when she fell ill and was hospitalized. Jennifer Dale, the Vice President of Recruiting at WGEM-TV, parent company of Gray Television, expressed her sadness at the news of her passing. Matt Schmidt, who worked as an anchor at WGEM-TV from 2007-2014, commented that Van Ness had “a powerful personality with a commanding presence.”

Van Ness started as a reporter at WGEM-TV in 2003 and became a weekday news anchor in 2008. She served as the Talent Acquisition Specialist for Quincy Media until 2021 when Gray Television acquired them. Van Ness was known for her Emmy-nominated reporting, as well as for her willingness to put in extra effort to make an impact. Tom and Neat Brower spoke of the small community who regarded Van Ness as a “celebrity,” noting her integrity and the special place she holds in the hearts of many.