A Wisconsin news anchor and former college basketball star described by family as the ‘happiest person’ they knew has taken her own life in a shock suicide six weeks before her wedding.
Neena Pacholke, 27, was found dead at her apartment on Saturday. Police were called to her apartment in southeast Wausau at 11am after concerned friends called 911 telling them she’d been threatening to kill herself.
Neena was found dead inside. It remains unclear how she took her own life.
Her death comes just six weeks before her wedding to fiance Kyle Haase, a divorced father-of-two who is 11 years her senior. It’s unclear how long the pair had been dating.
They were living together but he was not at home on Saturday when she died. Haase, 38, has not yet commented on her death.
In a heartbreaking Facebook tribute, she said: ‘I know she’s not in pain anymore and I am thankful for that.
‘Neena- I love you more than you could ever understand. You were my very best friend. My whole world. I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you.’
Neena’s co-anchor Brendan Mackey claimed his colleague was ‘the brightest light in the room’ and praised her as ‘an incredible friend… a role model’.
A graduate of Freedom High School in Tampa, Neena was a star point guard and team captain of the basketball team who managed an impressive 25-4 record in Neena’s senior year.
She overcame the tragedy of losing her first love, Jordan Harris, to brain cancer when the pair were still in high school.
Neena spoke of her loss in a 2016 interview, describing how she was in the room with Jordan when he died three years earlier. He was only 18 at the time.
She continued to fundraise for cancer research in his memory.
Ally Peters, Neena’s best friend and former colleague, told DailyMail.com that she had come to terms with Jordan’s death but always ‘missed’ him.
She said she loved her job wit WAOW Channel 9 in Wisconsin, and that she planned to stay there ‘her entire life’.
‘It’s so hard for the community to comprehend what happened because she put on a smile and showed p every morning on the desk. You would think she was the happiest person.
‘She had a lot going on behind the scenes. It’s hard for people to understand but that’s what happens with depression and mental health. It was an on and off thing that we dealt with as her friends. We supported her, but she also hid it pretty well.
‘It just goes to show you never know what’s going on in someone’s head. I never knew the depths of her despair and sadness,’ she said.
She said that Neena’s issued mental health struggles become significantly worse in the last few months but that she ‘never thought’ she would take her own life.
‘It seemed to me like that she had gotten through a lot and she seemed happy for the most part.’
In a statement on its website, WAOW, the network she worked for, said: ‘The entire team here at News 9 are absolutely devastated by the loss as we know so many others are as well.
‘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.
‘We ask you to please keep her family in your thoughts at this time as we all cope with the loss.
‘We will have much more on the life and legacy Neena had later in the week.’
Her family is now raising money on GoFundMe.
‘Neena radiated light and love wherever she went. She was a force of kindness, and her laughter and smile were contagious.
‘She was a beloved morning news anchor at WAOW in Wausau, Wisconsin and inspired her community with her storytelling and positivity.
‘We have created this GoFundMe to help collect donations for the Pacholke family as they make funeral preparations.
‘Any amount helps and we would appreciate your memories of Neena in the comments below.
‘Any additional money will go to mental health resources,’ the page description reads.