This was not like your Aunt Betty’s memorial service.
The memorial service Wednesday for News4’s dear Wendy Rieger included a Native American dance of life that had people on their feet.
In a church embedded in the woods of Bethesda, Maryland, Wendy’s friends, loved ones and colleagues gathered to celebrate her life. And in our city, Wendy had a big reach.
“If [Jim] Vance was the soul of our newsroom, Wendy was the spirit,” News4 Assistant News Director Matt Glassman said.
In Photos: 30 Years of Wendy Rieger
Wendy was a terrific wordsmith known as News4’s poet laureate. When times were troubled or when COVID-19 crashed our lives, Wendy’s words soothed our souls.
“Larger than life, one of a kind, the real deal — when you’re talking about Wendy, those were not cliches; she owned those labels,” Wendy’s longtime co-anchor Jim Handly said.
Wendy liked to say she lived life loud and large. If you wanted to know how she felt, you could just ask. She once compared the ebb and flow of an ocean storm to a romantic misadventure.
“It goes all flat and it starts to look like nothing much — kind of like my dating life,” she joked on the air once.
“Wendy Rieger was like her own weather pattern. Sometimes she would walk into a room with a clap of thunder. Other times it felt like a tornado. But most times it was sunlight. Wendy was the sun,” her friend Margie Ruttenberg said.
Wendy was a beautiful woman who never took a bad picture. She was a delightfully dangerous risk-taker with a mischievous way.
“Here are my keys to a successful Stanley Cup win. I’m wearing Armani red lipstick every time the Caps are on the ice. I have a special potion for Mr. Holtby, the Holt-Beast,” she said on the air, holding up a photo of goalie Braden Holtby covered with red lipstick kisses.
She was the life of the party and there are stories and stories to tell — many of them not suited for TV.
“Wendy was that cool chick in class you wanted to hang out with, and if you were lucky to hang out with her then you were cool too,” friend Steve Redisch said.
“I’ve never been with somebody that when they walked in the room, it wasn’t like the party was about to start — you wondered what party she was coming from,” friend Sultan Shakir said.
Former News4 cameraman Dan Buckley was Wendy’s husband. They had only been married a short time. Dan was with Wendy when she had open-heart surgery and as she battled brain cancer.
“We were always holding hands — driving in the car, walking to Rodmans to get her favorite pâté, laying in bed, we’d be holding hands," Dan said. "Sometimes in the middle of the night, I would feel her hand on my chest. She said she wanted to feel my heartbeat, that it grounded her. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath and her heart stopped."
Wendy died on April 16 at age 65. The party’s not over, but it will never be the same without her.