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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Just a Wilke afternoon

I'm sitting at my desk in the old Times building and the phone rings. "Dude," I hear Wilke say, and my day just got a little brighter. "Let's go, man," he says. I look down at the display and realize he's calling from the lobby. My day just got a whole lot brighter.

I wasn't expecting him. I didn't even know he was in town and I have a lot of work to do, but ten minutes later we're at Daisy May's barbecue joint on 11th Ave., ostensibly to share one pulled-pork sandwich. After a probing discussion with the woman behind the counter, with her both laughing at his jokes and giving serious answers to his very serious food-related questions, Wilke has ordered more or less a sampling of the entire menu. Spread out on the table before us are Memphis dry-rub ribs, Kansas City sticky ribs, brisket, chicken and, of course, a pulled-pork sandwich. Perhaps it goes without saying, but we have all the sides too.

This afternoon is like a flashback, and a very welcome one, to late-night descents into gluttony at Ben's Chili Bowl, back in the days when I was the new cub reporter who followed him everywhere. For years I had the privilege of seeing Wilke every morning for work and, more often than not, saying goodbye deep into the night. Much of what I know about reporting I learned – without realizing it – sitting next to him at the bar, listening to him grill lawyers on his cell phone.

Those times blur together as a happy series of office one-liners while munching animal crackers over Gruley's desk, of gatherings at long tables full of his friends, admirers, sources and newfound acquaintances at the Fourth Estate. They blur together because there were so blessedly many of those moments, but also because there is a sense of permanence to Wilke, our rock, He's always there holding down the fort, and when he isn't, a phone call describing his latest reporting coups in strange corners of Arizona or oenological discoveries with Nancy will bridge the gap.

We walk along the Hudson River and talk seriously about the past and about the future, about our relationships and about Jackson and Robin. Sometime around sunset, somewhere before we turn off on 34th St. so that I can drop him at Penn Station, I realize that I'm no longer the kid who tags along after him. I'm still 21 years his junior, but a grown man and he's treating me as an equal. And I'm sad to see him go, but I'm also happy, because I know how lucky I am to get to call him my friend.

Nick Kulish

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