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With heavy hearts, WUWM shares that Lake Effect producer Eilee Heikenen-Weiss has died

A woman sits in a recording studio in front of a microphone.
Anna Stratton
Eilee Heikenen-Weiss poses for a photo in Studio B.

Eilee Heikenen-Weiss, one of our Lake Effect producers, passed away on October 31, 2023, at University Hospital in Madison. She was the passenger in a car accident during the late morning of Sunday, October 29 in the town of Verona, Wisconsin. She was 39.

Eilee began her career in public radio at WBEZ in Chicago as an intern in 2007 on their Eight Forty-Eight magazine show. Over the next seven years, she advanced in producing roles on Eight Forty-Eight, Morning Shift and Afternoon Shift before becoming the director and producer on Worldview, WBEZ’s international affairs show.

After WBEZ, Eilee took a nearly 10-year break from public radio. During this time, she led adventure trips and experiences for Backroads, an active travel company, becoming their Peru expert. She also spent time traveling throughout the United States.

Despite living what would seem to many as a dream life of adventure and travel, Eilee felt the call to return to journalism and audio storytelling, and in the summer of 2023, she briefly worked as a staff reporter for Adams Publishing Group in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, before being hired as a producer on Lake Effect.

Eilee started at WUWM in October and quickly began to make a mark on her Lake Effect team and the WUWM staff. As she would enthusiastically share, being a producer on Lake Effect was a dream job because it was an opportunity for her to get back to public radio and audio storytelling, two things that she learned in her time away that she greatly missed and loved.

In her short time with us, she made an impact. Eilee quickly threw herself into the job and the Lake Effect team. She started a list of over 20 delightful and whimsical story ideas, joined a committee and began establishing roots here in Milwaukee; she was just getting started.

People in a virtual meeting
Michelle Maternowski
Teams screen capture
Eilee Heikenen Weiss (center) in a Lake Effect meeting with Xcaret Nuñez (left), Audrey Nowakowski (dressed in an inflatable tube costume), Sam Woods and Michelle Maternowski.

Eilee represented and lived the best qualities of all of us at WUWM. She was intensely curious, generous of spirit, full of care for her community, and so vibrant and full of life. She was most interested in telling the stories that helped our friends and neighbors get to know each other and our region better. Eilee was one of us.

Her family is asking that any gifts or donations be made to a public radio station or to a local animal shelter in her honor.

Eilee touched and made an impact on so many people and she will be celebrated, remembered and missed by her friends, family and the many people she traveled and worked with in journalism and public radio.

WUWM will be producing an audio memorial for Eilee. If you have a memory or story about Eilee that you would like to share as part of this memorial, please get in touch with Lake Effect Executive Producer Becky Mortensen at rlm@uwm.edu.

David Lee is WUWM's director and general manager.
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