Thursday, December 7

Longtime NBC Washington anchor Wendy Rieger dies after fight with cancer

Wendy Rieger, who was the longtime anchor at NBC Washington until her retirement last year, has died.

NBC Washington anchor Wendy Rieger. (Courtesy NBC Washington)

Wendy Rieger, known for her quick wit and the connection she forged with viewers for some 25 years as the anchor of NBC Washington’s afternoon news, died Saturday. She was 65.

Described as the “fun, engaging friend to check in with every evening,” she once compared her dating life to the weak start of a hurricane (“Starts looking like nothing much,” she quipped). She was also a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community.

Former colleague Jim Handly reported Friday, April 15, that she had entered hospice care and was surrounded by her closest loved ones.

Rieger, who was diagnosed with glioblastoma last summer, retired last December. Following news of her retirement from her, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declared Dec. 17, 2021, Wendy Rieger Day in the District.

In July 2021, Rieger announced that she underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor, and was getting treatment at Johns Hopkins. Several months later, she had open-heart surgery to fix two heart conditions.

Rieger, who also worked at WTOP, started at NBC Washington in 1988 as a reporter. Among the stories she covered was a custody case that took her on a three-week trip to New Zealand, and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. She was also well-known for covering hurricanes — “Note to self: waterproof mask,” she said during one segment.

She started anchoring weekend evening newscasts in 1996, and then the afternoon news in 2001. Before her television career, which began at CNN’s Washington Bureau, Rieger worked at WAMU as a writer and host. She also worked as an anchor at WTOP.

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The DC region remembers its local news anchor

Upon news of Rieger entering hospice care, those who knew her shared their memories and sadness.

Colleague Aimee Cho wrote that she was saddened and described her as one of the “kindest, strongest, funniest” and most caring people she knew.

NBC Washington evening anchor Doreen Gentzler shared a photo of her longtime friend and co-worker at Rieger’s Rappahanock County, Virginia, home in Oct. 2020 before she underwent open-heart surgery.

The announcement of Rieger’s death Saturday afternoon prompted an outpouring of admiration for the retired anchor.

Fellow NBC Washington anchor Doreen Gentzler said that Rieger “passed away peacefully this morning, in Hospice care, surrounded by loved ones and holding her husband Dan’s hand. She was always authentically Wendy and I’m grateful I knew her as a friend and a colleague for more than 3 decades.”

“Wendy delivered the news honestly — with humor, heart, & expertise and she will be missed dearly. Our hearts are with Dan, her NBC Washington family, and the many, many people who loved Wendy, ”Mayor Bowser wrote on Twitter.

Radio personality Tommy McFly, who is also a correspondent with NBC4, wrote that “There will never ever ever ever ever be another Wendy RIEGER. Rest well my sweet friend.”

PBS News weekend anchor Geoff Bennett wrote that Rieger “was synonymous with joy. It was impossible to be around her and not smile. She was a larger-than-life DC legend who meant so much to so many.”

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Members of the LGBTQ community also showed their appreciation for Rieger. Christopher Wiggins at The Advocate Magazine wrote that “My heart goes out to her family, her husband Dan and everyone in the NBC family who worked with her and loved her for more than 30 years.

WTOP reporter remembers close friend Rieger

Generous, beautiful, caring, and most of all, intensely curious were just some of the ways that longtime WTOP reporter Kate Ryan described her good friend Rieger.

The two met when Ryan was on assignment over 30 years ago and, upon learning that Ryan was working at WTOP as Rieger did before her, offered her any kind of advice she could give on the industry.

Rieger, Ryan and other women who were working in DC newsrooms were eventually dubbed the “news babes” (though Ryan doesn’t remember exactly who coined that term). As Ryan put it, “Wendy was, of course, the news babe,” and boundless enthusiasm became a model for all to follow.

“She had a phrase that she would use, and she’d say ‘chasing the light,’ you know, ‘I’m chasing the light,’” Ryan said. “By that she meant sucking the marrow out of every single day, and never giving up a chance at finding joy. And then sharing that with the people you love and the people you don’t know.”

Whether it was Rieger letting Ryan crash at her Georgetown condo while on assignment, effortlessly cooking amazing dishes or telling some not-so-G-rated stories on a girl’s trip to Ocean City, Rieger lived big outside of the newsroom as well. And she made sure people would stop and smell the roses with her.

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“She would tell you on a day like today with beautiful sunshine ‘Go out, and soak it up.’” Ryan said. “Ella She’s someone who would really, really want you to share the joy that you find with the people you love and with the wider world.”

A native of Norfolk, Rieger graduated from American University with a degree in journalism. She married Dan Buckley, who was an NBC Washington news photographer, last year. She was previously married to Sol Levine, who was a CNN producer.

The Washington Blade named her the “Best Local TV Personality” for the 2015 Best of Gay DC issue. In 2017, she had a cameo in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” The Washington Blade reported.

In 2019, she was one of the recipients of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s Harmony Award, along with Casa Ruby and NBC Out.

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