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Wisconsin TV anchor dies at 27, news station announces: ‘Absolutely devastated’

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WAUSAU, Wis. — WAOW-TV announced Sunday that morning anchor Neena Pacholke died suddenly on Saturday. She was 27.

The station’s announcement said its team was “absolutely devastated” by Pacholke’s death. “She was a kind person with a big heart and a contagious smile and we will miss her greatly.”

In an email sent to USA TODAY Wednesday morning, Wausau Police Cpt. Benjamin Graham confirmed that officers found Pacholke at her home Saturday morning. Police found her body during a welfare check after Pacholke “reportedly made suicidal statements.”

“Foul play is not suspected,” Graham wrote, adding that the Wausau Police Department and Marathon County Medical Examiner’s Office are currently investigating the 27-year-old’s death.

On the WAOW Facebook post announcing Pacholke’s death, many commenters described her on-air and off-air personality in glowing terms. 

One viewer described Pacholke as “a joy to wake up to every day.” Another described her as “a ray of sunshine.” Several other viewers talked about how they enjoyed watching her morning show on WAOW.

988: What to know about the new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline  

Through Twitter, Wausau mayor Katie Rosenberg said she was “gutted for Neena’s family and friends and the whole @WAOW team. So, so sorry for this difficult time.”

Pacholke’s sister, Kaitlynn Pacholke, said on WAOW’s Facebook page, “Thank you all for your stories. As her sister, I have read every single one and I love to see everyone she impacted. My sister was the most incredible person in this world and I am shattered. I know she loved her job and loved every one of her viewers.”

The WAOW announcement said the station planned to share more about Pacholke’s life and legacy later in the week. 

Pacholke joined WAOW in 2017 as a multimedia journalist. She became a co-anchor for the station’s morning show, “Wake Up Wisconsin,” in 2019. She also produced and anchored its 11 a.m. newscast. 

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According to her bio on WAOW’s website, Pacholke had Wisconsin roots on her mother’s side of the family and loved “local coffee shops, squeaky cheese curds and a weekend escape to the Northwoods.” The Tampa Bay Times reported that she was also engaged to be married.

She grew up in Tampa, Florida, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in broadcast journalism. While in college, she played on the women’s basketball team and completed multiple internships in media reporting and production.

Follow Rebecca Loroff on Twitter at @RebeccaLoroff. 

Contributing: Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline any time day or night, or chat online.

Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

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