Morning TV news anchor and former college athlete Neena Pacholke died Saturday, her sister Kaitlynn told the Tampa Bay Times. Neena, who played basketball for the University of South Florida (USF) and was also a television news anchor for WAOW in Wausau, Wisconsin, was 27 years old. Kaitlynn told the Times that her sister died by suicide.
"My sister was by far the happiest person I thought I knew," Kaitlynn said, per PEOPLE. "Sometimes you just don't know what people are going through, no matter how much you think you know someone," she added. "My sister had access to every resource you could imagine. She was loved by everybody. She was so good at her job."
The Bulls are heartbroken to learn of the sudden loss of our beloved former teammate Neena Pacholke (2013-16). Our thoughts and prayers are with Neena and her family during this extremely difficult time. pic.twitter.com/kMDyBZVsOG— USF W. Basketball (@USFWBB) August 29, 2022
WAOW announced the news of Pacholke's death on Sunday. "The entire team here at News 9 are absolutely devastated by the loss as we know so many others are as well," the news station wrote. "Neena loved this community and the people who lived here. She was a kind person with a big heart and a contagious smile and we will miss her greatly."
Pacholke played high school basketball at Freedom High School in Tampa, Florida and went on to play at USF where she helped the team reach the NCAA Tournament twice. She joined WAOW as a multimedia reporter in 2017 and began working as an anchor in 2019, according to her professional website.
Wausau, Wisconsin Morning News Anchor Neena Pacholke, DEAD SUDDENLY...— Dr. James E. Olsson (@DrJamesOlsson) August 29, 2022
- Heavy pic.twitter.com/Zu7YStHNVp
"I have never met anyone in my entire life that is more loved than this girl," Brendan Mackey of WAOW wrote on Facebook. "Everyday she made people smile, whether that was through a tv screen or just being an incredible friend. She was so happy and so full of life and a role model. Neena was so talented. She has so many friends and family members that love her so so so much. ...Being your co-anchor Neena was an honor. You were Batman and I was Robin. When I joined WAOW you made it clear we were going to work hard and compete with the best. Let's remember Neena Pacholke for the beautiful person she was. The brightest light in the room. The biggest smile and the funniest laugh."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.