Let's capture some of why we loved Wilke so much. As one friend of his put it:

"...write up an anecdote – some story where they watched Wilke build up into righteous anger when reporting a story... or ironing out a crease in the fabric of the Journal bureau... And someone should talk about him tearing up when he described taking his kid to college…..Or when he became nearly inconsolable when the anthrax story came back and cost him two fantastic seats at the Nats-Mets game. Describe a time he filled in for people, picked up their loads for them, counseled them, slipped them incredible sources, shared bylines... that will keep him alive and you (and the rest of us) afloat."

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A big deal

I met Wilke during my time in the federal government. I always knew that he was a prominent reporter at the Journal … but I never quite understood how big of a deal he was outside of Washington until I went to work for a big investment firm in Northern California.

Wilke was the antitrust reporter for the Wall Street Journal during the heyday of merger arbitrage deals. In the investment world, Wilke’s work was absorbed by a reverential following. Investors knew that John’s work had integrity. He was extremely thorough, had great sources, and was prescient in his analysis.

Wilke’s beat at the Journal evolved beyond antitrust. However, at my firm, no reporter since then has received the deferential attention that John did during the high-water days of merger arbitrage.

John loved good story telling. Some of my best memories of him are sitting at a bar after work with friends recounting the colorful characters he encountered in pursuit of a story. His eyes would light up as lowered his voice and honed in on the details. And when it came to listening, he’d lean in and focus with intensity.

John could be a worrier. I remember having dinner at Glenn Simpson’s house one night when the power went out and the place went completely dark. Glenn’s young sons managed to get their hands on lit candles and dance around the living room. Wilke was convinced the house was going to burn down and all of us with it. But fretting was just part of the charm. All you had to do is watch a Red Sox game with him to know that fretting was second nature to him.

As hard as John worked and as much as he loved going out with his friends, his anchor in the world was his family. I still remember the look on his face when he told me that he had surprised Nancy by buying her a piano. He was just delighted at the thought of the joy it had brought her. He’d relished going to Fenway Park – especially with Jackson and exuded so much pride in describing Robin’s college journey.

John Wilke indelibly touched so many lives … I feel deeply fortunate to have been one of them.

Margie Sullivan

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