WLS news legend Joel Daly passes away at 86

(Daly was diagnosed with vascular Parkinsonism)

2020 has taken so many legends from us. Reel Chicago is sad to report that iconic newsman Joel Daly, who spent nearly 40 years at ABC affiliate WLS, died today at around 5:30 a.m. at his home in LaGrange. He was 86.

“He died peacefully,” his daughter Kelly told the Chicago Tribune referring to her father who influenced a generation of Chicago news anchors. “This is the way I believe he wanted his life to end, and he was able to see his beloved dog.”

Last year, Daly was diagnosed with vascular Parkinsonism, a condition that led to mini-strokes. He was in hospice care in his daughter’s home.

Daly earned his trust among viewers as he would report on some of the biggest news events of the last few decades, including the civil rights movement, the assassination of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. and the trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard.

The anchor was born in Montana on Aug. 21, 1934. After graduating from Yale in 1956, Daly found his first radio job in Cleveland. In 1967, he arrived in Chicago and sat in comfortably behind the anchor’s desk with co-anchor Fahey Flynn, Bill Frink and weatherman John Coleman.

The pioneering broadcast duo quickly became known for their on-air banter and pretty much conceived the idea of morning “happy talk.”

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“I guess the breakthrough innovation was we broke down the walls between the news, weather and the sports that I think were traditionally separated by commercials, and then the personalities doing those segments were able to communicate one with the other,” Daly once said in an interview. “So it wasn’t until it developed here in Chicago and infected the country that it became a family kind of thing.”

Daly would go on to co-anchor next to an unknown Oprah Winfrey and, later Linda Yu.

Toward the end of his career, Mr. Daly’s former ABC7 co-anchor Linda Yu paid tribute to his remarkable longevity, noting that he’d lasted through “eight general managers, 11 news directors and over 10,000 news broadcasts.”

“During his nearly 40 years with ABC’s WLS-Ch. 7, he not only led the station to the top of the ratings, he helped influence a generation to watch TV personalities,” the station said in a release.

Daly retired from the news business in 2005 and became the information officer for the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

After leaving ABC 7 Chicago in 2005, Daly became the information officer for the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. But wait there’s more – Daly was also a daring pilot who even built his own stunt plane.

And — believe it or not — an accomplished country singer and yodeler.

Daly was predeceased by his wife of 58 years, Suzon, his son Douglas, his son Scott, and is survived by his daughter, Kelly, granddaughters Kate and Madison Daly (Alicia Daly), his sister Pat Kraus.

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Reel Chicago extends our condolences to Joel’s family and friends.