Wendy Rieger, longtime News4 anchor and reporter, died Saturday morning after a battle with Glioblastoma. Wendy was holding the hand of her husband, Dan, as she passed away. She was 65.
For almost 35 years, Wendy had a way of lighting up the screen. You’d never quite know what you were going to get.
Except … yeah, you’d know exactly what you’d get.
For all these years, Wendy was Wendy: smart, funny, compassionate and authentically herself.
She shared a lot of her life with us over the years talking about her homes, her cats, her boat, her love of wine and her love of the area from the waters of Maryland to the mountains of Virginia. And, of course, the culture of Washington.
Wendy came to Washington to study at American University in Northwest D.C. Her career began in radio with her strong, euphonic voice emanating from the airwaves at WAMU and WTOP.
When she started at News4, however, it was clear that Wendy belonged in front of the camera.
In Photos: 30 Years of Wendy Rieger
You may remember Wendy’s unique coverage of hurricanes up and down the East Coast. She also reported from the Olympics in Brazil, a royal wedding in England and she chased news from New Zealand to Vietnam.
And, for 20 years, she was that fun engaging friend to check in with every evening at 5 o’clock. Her first desk partner was Susan Kidd and then she spent 14 years with the guy she calls “Handly.”
The chemistry between Wendy and Jim Handly was magical from the start. The News4 Team could hear their howling laugher from the makeup room to the newsroom.
Wendy was spontaneous and fun, but she also knew her stuff.
Producers always knew Wendy could adlib complicated foreign policy news or a breaking political story. She was one of the first television journalists to regularly cover the environment through her breakthrough series, Going Green.
And oh, could she write. Her scripts were the standard that her colleagues aspired to reach. Jim Vance, our late colleague, described Wendy’s talent as “finely skilled.”
The last story Wendy wrote was a heartfelt reflection on our late colleague Joe Krebs. She was going to miss his funeral that week because she wasn’t feeling well.
It turned out that a brain tumor was the cause of her symptoms. The diagnosis came just a few months after Wendy had open heart surgery. Wendy talked about that surgery with News4 viewers because she wanted to warn people to pay attention to their symptoms.
Through all of that — on TV and off — Wendy showed us just what kind of strength she had. When she signed off the air after 33 years, we saw our strong, smart, creative and curious friend look back with pride and ahead with hope.
Her cancer returned just a few months after that magical day.
In a note to the newsroom, she wrote this: “As you know, I have lived my life big and loud. It is my nature. And I’ve had a blast. But a stillness has come over me that is profound and potent. I didn’t know I could be this quiet. Life is not always a test. It is a teaching. I must learn this lesson with grace. And I will.”
And you did, Wendy. You did with the grace and dignity we will never forget.
A note from the News4 family on the passing of Wendy Rieger
We lost our smart, vibrant, wonderful Wendy Rieger today.
Wendy loved life as much as it loved her. She had so many passions and lived life sharing them with everyone she could. For more than 30 years, NBC4 Washington viewers benefited from her unique style that blended humor, intelligence and compassion, and we are all better for knowing her.
Wendy was diagnosed with brain cancer almost a year ago. She had surgery and treatment, then retired in December with an intent to savor the rest of her life and start a new chapter. Her cancer returned aggressively several weeks ago, and she died this morning, holding the hand of her husband, Dan.
We send our love to Dan, who was a colleague of ours for decades, and to her brothers, nieces and nephews and many, many friends.