LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Gary Waddell was a fixture on Las Vegas television for more than three decades, most of those years as the main anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8’s evening newscasts. Waddell, who was 77, died Thursday night at St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena Campus.

“He was the longest-serving newscaster in Las Vegas history,” Tom Vannozzi, a longtime friend of Waddell’s, said.

Waddell arrived in Las Vegas in 1971 as a television reporter and noon weather anchor on KORK-TV before moving to KLAS, Channel 8 in 1980.

“For several years, he led the news team that drew more ratings, more viewers, than the other Southern Nevada TV stations combined,” according to a news release from Fierro Communications.

Waddell retired in Aug. 2012.

“The family at KLAS TV – 8 News Now is saddened to hear of Gary Waddell’s passing. Gary’s name will forever be remembered as a respected and iconic journalist in our great city. He worked at KLAS for 32 years, sitting alongside Paula Francis as our evening anchor. We have lost a dear family member and our hearts are heavy today. Our condolences to his family and many friends who share in our grief.” 

Lisa Howfield, Vice President & General Manager, KLAS-TV

According to Vannozzi, Waddell had been spending time between Las Vegas and Wrightwood, California, with his ex-wife, Chrisse Waddell. He liked to go there in the summers because the weather was cooler.

“Despite the fact that we legally divorced, we remained family through all these years,” Chrisse Waddell said. “My family was his family. We are all feeling the loss, as are Gary’s many friends and the people who admired his work for decades.”

Vannozzi said Waddell, who had been fully vaccinated, contracted a breakthrough case of COVID-19 while in California. He returned to Las Vegas on Monday.

“He called me and it was mid-afternoon or early evening and asked me to pick up food for him,” he said.

Waddell called Vannozzi again and told him that he had fainted and called for an ambulance to transport him to the hospital. He was treated with remdesivir and was doing well in the recent days, Vannozzi said.

“He had been doing fine and the nurse said he was doing fine,” he said.

Vannozzi said Waddell suffered a massive heart attack just before midnight Thursday.

“He did everything right but it was just he’s one of those people who had the complications that made COVID that much more serious.”

Funeral services for Waddell are pending.