Wisconsin news anchor who died by suicide previously experienced a tragic heartbreak—when her high school boyfriend died of a rare brain cancer in 2016.
Neena Pacholke, who is to be married in less than two months, had lost her first love Jordan Harris when she was 18 years old.
Harris had been diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor in 2011, and after two separate battles with cancer, he succumbed to the disease shortly before the two were due to start their freshman year at the University of South Florida.
The WAOW host, who died on Saturday and is remembered by family and colleagues for his infectious smile and positive spirit, spoke about the loss of his first love in an interview shared by Moffitt Cancer Center in 2016three years after Harris died.
“I just remember sitting there, all of us around him. I remember holding her hand when she died. I knew it would be difficult but I always told him I would be there through it all,” Pacholke said.
Pacholke and Harris had met their first year of high school in Biology class, and were friends before they started dating, Pacholke said in the video.
Pacholke also wrote about his girlfriend and her hopes for greater funding for childhood cancer in a blog she was writing at the time, titled “Kids Get Cancer Too.”
“It has been thirteen months and eighteen days since the love of my life acquired its angel wings from a rare form of brain cancer. He is the main reason behind the topic of my blog and will continue to be the driving force behind everything I do in life.” write in one post.
Even after his death, Pacholke continued to raise funds and volunteer with cancer research, according to an article published by The OracleUniversity of South Florida student-run newspaper.
Speaking to his first year newspaper, shortly after losing his girlfriend, Pacholke said he was able to maintain his positive outlook by remembering Harris.
“You still have your bad days, but in the end they say everything happened for a reason,” she said at the time. “A part of me questions that, but it will still make you a stronger person. It sucks you don’t have that person to text all day, but I still have the morals to carry with me. ”
Pacholke, a longtime basketball player, is helped through her grief by her varsity head coach as she begins her freshman year on the women’s basketball team.
“Neena and Jordan have a special bond and a lot of people don’t understand that relationship, especially as young adults and the love they had for each other in high school,” Jose Fernandez, head coach of the USF women’s basketball team, said in 2016.
Pacholke graduated from the University of South Florida, where he wrote three seasons as a point guard – in 2017 and soon after took up a reporter role with News 9.
He was then promoted to news anchor in February 2019, according to his website.
Former coach Pacholke said his team was “devastated” by the young journalist’s sudden death.
“Our prayers are with the Pacholke family during this very difficult time. Please keep it in your mind,” Fernandez said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Pacholke’s colleagues at News 9 echo those sentiments.
“Neena Pacholke, our beloved morning anchor died suddenly Saturday,” 9 WAOW said in a statement. “The whole team here at News 9 is absolutely devastated by the loss as we know so many others are too.”
The host said Pacholke, with his warm personality and smile, was always happy, full of life and acted as a positive role model for many.
“Being your co-anchor Neena is an honor. You are batman and i am robin. When I joined WAOW, you made it clear that we would work hard and compete with the best,” co-anchor Brendan Mackey said in a Facebook post. “Let’s remember Neena Pacholke because she is a beautiful person. The brightest light in the room. Biggest smile and funniest laugh.”
Pacholke was expected to be married in less than two months at the time of his death, said his older sister, Kaitlynn Pacholke. Tampa Bay Times. The online marriage registration for Neena Pacholke and Kyle Haase lists the wedding date as October 12.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.