The communities of central Illinois are remembering popular WCIA-TV meteorologist Robert Reese, who has lost his battle against cancer.
Mr. Reese, 50, passed away Tuesday night at the University of Chicago Hospital. He had battled cancer for many years and was most recently fighting pneumonia.
News anchor Jennifer Roscoe worked with Mr. Reese since he joined the station in 1998. She said Mr. Reese was a unique individual who loved life.
"On the outside he came across as this guy who is so fun-loving," Roscoe said. "And then you realize how much he was hurting for so long and never complained."
Reese shared his cancer diagnosis with viewers from the start years ago and became an advocate offering support and comfort to others, also in the battle of their lives.
WDWS newsman Dave Shaul remembers hiring Mr. Reese when Shaul served as news director for WCIA.
"He started out working part-time and later began to work full-time for us," Shaul said.
Mr. Reese served as the television station's chief meteorologist for nearly four years.
"He was very good and very comfortable on the air," Shaul said. "He brought a lot of maturity to the broadcasts, and he was a calming presence on the air."
Shaul said he frequently went out to lunch with Mr. Reese over the years.
"He was a true professional," Shaul said. "He had medical problems, but he never felt sorry for himself."
WBGL program director Ryan Springer said Mr. Reese reported the weather for the radio station from 2001 until about two weeks before his death.
"He had a strong work ethic, and he absolutely loved doing what he did," Springer said. "He loved talking about his kids and his wife, and he was a great guy."
Springer described Mr. Reese as a "fun-loving guy."
"He was like a kid, and he never complained throughout all the years he dealt with cancer," Springer said. "I talked with him on almost a daily basis, either with a call or a text, and I never once heard him complain."
Douglas County ESDA director Joe Victor said Mr. Reese served as a volunteer for the organization.
"He taught our weather spotters class on several occasions," Victor said. "He worked with the weather service to make our system better, he helped us buy software and weather instruments to do our job better and he improved our understanding of weather."
Victor called Mr. Reese "a positive force" for the ESDA volunteers.
"He was fun to be around," Victor said. "He was amazing."
Last year, Mr. Reese appeared in Watseka to take part in the kickoff of an American Cancer Society program.
Jean Lareau, a cancer survivor herself, said Mr. Reese was an inspiration to many.
"His willingness to be open and honest about it with people helped me to do that too," Lareau told WDWS radio. "I can talk very honestly with people when they ask me about it. And I don't know that I would have done that (without his example)."
Tuscola Mayor Dan Kleiss remembers attending some Relay for Life events with Mr. Reese.
"He was always very cheerful considering the things he was going through physically," Kleiss said. "He was always easy to talk to and visit with."
An education fund has been created for Mr. Reese's three youngest children. Donations to the Reese Scholarship Fund can be made at the First State Bank in Tuscola.
Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Edwards Funeral Home in Arcola. Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Forty Martyrs Catholic Church in Tuscola.