Elizabeth Brackett, Hyde Park resident and award-winning Chicago journalist, dies at 76

By JOANA SALIEVSKA
Herald Intern

Elizabeth Brackett – Courtesy of WTTW

This Sunday, June 17, Hyde Park resident Elizabeth Brackett, longtime “Chicago Tonight” reporter, died at Stroger Hospital, surrounded by family, four days after she sustained injuries from a serious accident while biking on the Lakefront Trail.

The accident, which left Brackett in a coma on a ventilator, occurred last Wednesday morning. According to a statement released by WTTW on June 15, “exactly what transpired Wednesday is unknown, but the incident left Brackett, who is in a coma, with at least one fractured vertebra.”

In the same statement, Chicago Fire Department spokesman, Larry Langford, said that paramedics at the scene saw “no signs of trauma, no dirt, no bruises, scrapes, contusions, anything that indicated she collided with something or had a fall or struck something.”

“Brackett, who was also a five-time world champion triathlete, was a tenacious reporter, exceptional writer, skilled and insightful host and, above all, a valued colleague and friend to everyone who worked on Chicago Tonight,” the station said in a statement released Sunday.

Brackett retired from her full-time position at “Chicago Tonight” in 2014, but contributed occasionally to the program. Before becoming a journalist, Brackett worked as a social worker in the Uptown neighborhood and in 1976, she ran unsuccessfully for 43rd Ward Democratic committeeman. She decided to enter journalism when she realized “the same kind of change” she had worked for in politics “could be achieved through the media,” she said in a Chicago Tribune 1990 profile.

Her reporting on the U.S. farm crisis won her a national Emmy award in 1987. The next year, she won a national Peabody Award for her coverage of the 1988 presidential election.

As a triathlete, in 2009 she won her first ITU World Championship for her age group (65 to 69 years old) in Sydney, Australia. She finished the race in two hours, 57 mins, and 47 seconds. She went on to win four more ITU World Championships in her age group.

Brackett is survived by her husband, Peter Martinez, daughter Ilsa Wallich, son Jon Brackett, stepchildren Lisa Nuzzo, Stephanie Martinez, Jonathan Martinez and Matthew Martinez, sisters Ellen Rieger and Jill Swisher, 10 grandchildren and six nieces and nephews.

WATCH: Video coverage of Brackett’s funeral service.

hpherald@hpherald.com