Longtime NBC Washington anchor Wendy Rieger dies after fight with cancer

NBC Washington anchor Wendy Rieger. (Courtesy NBC Washington)
Jim Handly of NBC Washington discusses his time spent with 33-year anchor and channel 4 alumni Wendy Reiger.

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

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

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, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared Dec. 17, 2021, Wendy Rieger Day in the District.

In July 2021, Rieger announced that she had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor, and was getting treatment at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Earlier, she went through open-heart surgery to address two heart conditions.

 

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A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Rieger graduated from American University with a degree in journalism.

Rieger, who had also worked briefly at WTOP, started at NBC Washington in 1988 as a reporter.

Among the stories Rieger 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 mascara,” she said during one segment.

Rieger began anchoring weekend evening newscasts for NBC Washington in 1996, and then the afternoon news in 2001. Before her career in television, which began at CNN’s Washington bureau, Rieger worked at WAMU 88.5 as a writer and host. She also worked as an anchor for WTOP.

Rieger was known as a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community in the Washington area.

The Washington Blade named Rieger the “Best Local TV Personality” in their 2015 ‘Best of Gay D.C.’ issue. In 2017, she performed a cameo in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” according to The Washington Blade.

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.

In 2021, she married retired NBC4 news photographer Dan Buckley. She had been briefly married to CNN producer Sol Levine in the early 1990’s.

The DC region remembers its local news anchor

Fellow anchor Doreen Gentzler shares time with friend and coworker.

Upon news of Rieger entering hospice care, those who knew her began sharing their feelings – and their memories of Rieger.

NBC Washington colleague Aimee Cho described Rieger as one of the “kindest, strongest, funniest” and most caring people she knew.

Fellow NBC Washington anchor Doreen Gentzler shared a photo from her longtime friend and co-worker’s home in Rappahanock County, Virginia, taken 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.

On her Facebook page, 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.”

On Twitter, D.C. Mayor Bowser wrote “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.”

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 D.C. legend who meant so much to so many.”

Members of the LGBTQ community also showed 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 a close friend

Former Editor Judy Taub shares thoughts on Wendy's time at WTOP.

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

The two met when they were on assignment over 30 years ago. When Rieger learned that Ryan was working at WTOP, as she had previously, she offered Ryan what advice she could on the industry they both worked in.

Rieger, Ryan and other women who were working in D.C. newsrooms eventually became 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 her 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.”

For many, Rieger’s generous spirit was as big as her personality.

Ryan remembers that after she had surgery at a D.C. hospital, Rieger urged her to spend her recovery time at Rieger’s nearby D.C. condo.

She was known to throw open her home to friends, and was a hostess who threw dinner parties with seemingly effortless flair.

Reiger’s storytelling abilities weren’t restricted to broadcasting.

Ryan recalled a girl’s only beach weekend where Rieger told a particularly funny (and non-G rated) story that had friends shrieking with laughter, and a group of nearby sunbathers leaning in to eavesdrop.

She also made sure to remind friends and colleagues to stop and smell the roses.

“She would tell you on a day like today, with beautiful sunshine, ‘Go out, and soak it up.'” Ryan said. “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, Virginia, Rieger graduated from American University with a degree in journalism. In 2021, she married retired NBC4 news photographer Dan Buckley. She was also briefly married to CNN producer Sol Levine in the early 1990’s.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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