Over the weekend, the Chicago Tonight family lost one of its most devoted and beloved team members, cameraman Chuck Haynie.
Chuck worked primarily on our political beat and whether they were running for office, giving press conferences or heading to jail, more often than not it was Chuck's video of politicians that you saw on this program each night.
Chuck was a versatile videographer who also worked on many of our other segments from arts and science stories to more than a few snowstorms. He was a kind and gentle man who was often the first person in the studio in the morning and worked tirelessly throughout the day. Chuck was with Channel 11 for 22 years and before joining us, he worked at NBC 5 Chicago.
His strong faith, seemingly unending optimism and good humor were on display constantly even as he said goodbye to his family and many friends over the last week. We send our love and condolences to Chuck's wife, Yolanda, and his two sons, Alex and Brandon.
All of us here at Channel 11 loved and will miss Chuck Haynie a great deal.
Here are some of the memories from Chuck’s colleagues as well as a tribute from Mayor Emanuel.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel:
“The City of Big Shoulders lost one of its biggest hearts recently with the passing of Chuck Haynie. He will be missed dearly because he was loved greatly – for his heart and his humor, his love for life and, most of all, his love for others. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family, and our thanks go out to Chuck for shining his light on our city.”
Alexandra Silets, Chicago Tonight Producer:
Chuck was a kind spirit who always sported a smile along with a hearty laugh or subtle chuckle. He was a true partner in the field who stood out with his great height and size. But he was as gentle as a teddy bear. He was a lovely human being and we’ll miss his camaraderie, his spirit and his dedication to his craft.
Brandis Friedman, Chicago Tonight Correspondent:
Dear Chuck – Before I even started working at Chicago Tonight, you introduced yourself to me at City Hall one day, a week or so before my first day on the job. I was working for WBBM Newsradio at the time, and we were covering the same press conference. I didn’t even have to introduce myself—you just knew who I was. You always knew what was going on. And I’m grateful that you made me feel at ease before joining the team.
I’ll miss your everyday positive attitude, your support on our shoots as I learned my way around this town (there’s still more I need you to teach me), but especially, I’ll miss your laugh. I hope you’re resting peacefully. Love always, Brandis
Phil Ponce, Chicago Tonight Host
Chuck was such a good person—and constantly so—that it was easy to take his kind nature for granted. It was easy to take for granted that he was always in good cheer, would never say anything unkind about anyone and was easy to laugh in a non-judgmental way about the foibles of the world.
But beyond being an exemplary human being, Chuck was truly engaged in what he did. He didn’t just point his camera and shoot, he thought about the people and issues he covered and would make observations to reporters that often became questions and points of discussion. He got what he did and shared his insights with his colleagues—all to our benefit.
There are many ways to assess someone’s life. One way is to think about the inner light in someone that reveals itself to others—probably unbeknownst to the person from whom it emanates. Chuck’s inner light made better the people upon whom it shone. It’s a light his colleagues will miss very much.
Paris Schutz, Chicago Tonight Reporter:
Chuck was a beloved cameraman for WTTW and my partner in crime on countless stories through the years. He approached his job with passion and a sense of urgency. Chuck would go overboard to make sure we had every shot we needed and to be in position to grab any interview. He was more than dependable. Like clockwork, I’d receive a call on my phone early every morning. “Hello Paris, it’s Chuck. I’m headed down to City Hall…….,” the conversation would go. We were a true team.
But his legend as a cameraman is only surpassed by his reputation as a gentle, warm, and friendly soul. He always had a smile on his face, and he laughed at almost anything. Those qualities left an impression on me, as well as colleagues from other stations and even in the mayor's and governor's offices. These are two of my favorite memories of Chuck - from the polar vortex this year: We trudged through snow banks along the lakefront in 40 below wind chills so he could capture the frigid images of the day. He never complained, rather, enjoyed every minute of it. He'll be sorely missed.
Jay Smith, Chicago Tonight Supervising Producer:
Chuck Haynie was a kind and generous person. That’s easy to throw out there about someone, but in this case it is so very true. Chuck was also an extraordinarily hardworking person. Going above and beyond was the norm for Chuck. He was always upbeat and ready for a good laugh. And some good food. Just as long as he didn’t have to get on a boat. Or walk on a pier. Or generally have to be around a body of water.
Chuck was always curious about what was going on in the world. Every day he was eager to take on whatever assignments came his way. As you probably know, we only do very limited sports coverage on Chicago Tonight. But every time a Chicago team was doing well, Chuck would ask to be sent to cover a game. The Bulls were playing the Washington Wizards in the playoffs: Chuck would come say “send me to D.C. for the game!” The Blackhawks were playing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals: “let’s go to Boston!” He’d come say it with a smile every time. I’ll miss that smile and so much more about Chuck.
Crystin Immel, Chicago Tonight Assistant Producer:
I was only lucky enough to work with Chuck for a few months. He was one of the first people to congratulate me when I joined the Chicago Tonight team. I got to go out on my first field shoot with him just a few weeks ago. We listened to talk radio on the drive in and he chocked my head with enough baseball history to last a lifetime. I remember when he went to cover the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field. When he came back I asked him how it went and he said, “You had to be there. Once in a lifetime.”
I always looked forward to his calls in the morning when he asked what he would be going to cover next. His kindness and positivity were contagious. He would often call me with a lead on a story and offer to skip his lunch to go and cover it. He was a great team member and I only wish I had been blessed to work with him longer. My thoughts go out to his family.
And Chuck, I’ll miss telling you how you saved the day.
Elizabeth Brackett, Chicago Tonight Correspondent:
I worked with Chuck for just over 20 years. A reporter and a cameraman spend many hours together covering stories and get to know one another very well. What I will remember the most about Chuck was his love for his family, his wife, Yolanda and their two sons. He was a gentle man but fierce in his desire to care for and protect his sons. I know his sudden loss must be devastating for them. It is also devastating for all of us who will miss his basic decency, his love for news and most of all ..his smile.
Eddie Arruza, Chicago Tonight Correspondent:
Anything I write about Chuck Haynie would be redundant to what my colleagues above have so fondly said. He worked very hard, cared deeply for and about his family, found a way to laugh at the ridiculousness of humanity and practiced the goodness of heart that was at the core of his faith. No tribute to Chuck can pay proper homage to what his 62 years were: a righteous, purposeful life.
Mary Field, Chicago Tonight Executive Producer
Chuck will always be remembered for his incredible work ethic, his good nature, and his grace and equanimity under pressure. (The only exception to that, he would want me to point out, would be any story involving water and a boat!) While Chuck was a cameraman and a member of the engineering department, he was an important editorial voice on the Chicago Tonight team. Chuck had excellent news judgment and he often tipped us to stories he learned about on the street.
He was the first person I saw every morning and he always made my day brighter. He was a positive and delightful force. He cared about his job and his colleagues loved him.