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Longtime Rockford Register Star Columnist, Political Editor Chuck Sweeny Dead At 70

Susan Stephens, Steve Cunningham, Dave Syverson, and Chuck Sweeny talk pension reform at Riverfront Museum Park in 2013.
Victor Yehling
Susan Stephens, Steve Cunningham, Dave Syverson, and Chuck Sweeny talk pension reform at Riverfront Museum Park in 2013.

Remembering Chuck Sweeny with Wally Haas, Mark Bonne, and Ron Holm.

Longtime Rockford Register Star columnist and political reporter Chuck Sweeny died Monday. He was 70. The Rockford native had worked at his hometown newspaper since 1984. The Register Star’s Opinion Editor Wally Haas worked side-by-side with Sweeny for those 35 years.

"He could be a bit curmudgeonly, but he loved Rockford," Haas said. "And that came through in his writing. He would poke public officials and try to get them to do the right thing and quite often he succeeded.”

Sweeny’s final column appears in Tuesday's Register Star. Haas says Sweeny filed his story just hours before he died.

The newspaper will provide additional details as they become available.

State Senator Steve Stadelman issued the following statement regarding the passing of Sweeny:

"Having worked with Chuck for many years as a fellow journalist and more recently as an elected official, I saw from more than one perspective that his reporting and commentary was insightful, fair and incredibly well sourced. As a reader, I always appreciated his ability to inject humor into the often tense public discourse. Like any good newsman, Chuck would not use the word 'institution' lightly. But through decades of helping the public understand government, local history and the civic issues of our times, he was just that -- a Rockford institution."

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) issued the following statement:

“My heart aches for the Sweeny family, the staff at the Register Star and the city of Rockford – what a loss. Chuck was a pillar of the Rockford community and truly served the public through journalism. With his columns, Chuck never held back and always called it how he saw it – he was candid, colorful and fair. Gerry and I send our deepest condolences.”

Congressman Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) issued this statement about Sweeny Monday afternoon:

“I’m saddened by the news of Chuck Sweeny’s passing this morning. On behalf of my staff and the 16th Congressional District, I send my deepest condolences to his family, his team at the Rockford Register Star paper, and the entire journalism community for this great loss. Chuck was a dedicated professional, talented and tough, and a true staple in our community. His integrity and insight have been invaluable over the years, and he will be sorely missed.”

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued this statement:

“Today we mourn the loss of a beloved figure in Illinois’ journalism community. I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chuck Sweeny, who dedicated his life to his hometown paper for over three decades.

“Chuck tackled issues at every level of politics: no issue was too small to matter or too large for dissent. He was courageous in his advocacy and steadfast in his passion for Illinois.  My heart goes out to the city of Rockford and the Register Star family as they grieve one of their finest.”

Sweeny was also a former commentator with WNIJ. He is survived by his wife Cherene and their two children.

Copyright 2021 WNIJ Northern Public Radio. To see more, visit WNIJ Northern Public Radio.

Susan’s parents should have known she’d end up in radio: her favorite toys were tape recorders, cameras, notepads, and books. Many years later, she’s an award-winning reporter at her favorite radio station. Formerly WNIJ’s News Director, she asked to return to the role of full-time reporter/anchor/utility player in 2010 (less paperwork, more reporting!). Her #1 goal is to tell the most compelling stories in the fewest words possible…all the better if a little humor can be thrown into the mix. It should come as no surprise, then, that she can whip up a haiku for any occasion. She also enjoys the Detroit Tigers, learning pioneer skills (Gardening, canning, and the like. Just in case.), traveling with friends, and pretending she’s going to get around to playing her theremin.