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 tender-hearted bear

A lot of things have changed at The Wall Street Journal Washington bureau in the past decade, but one thing remained constant: John Wilke at his computer, head cocked to one side, a phone nestled between his ear and shoulder, hands tapping at the keyboard.

It was fun to watch him work. Heck, it was fun just watching him. He lumbered into the office so many mornings the same way: a leather jacket over his shoulders. A cup of coffee in one hand, a satchel in the other containing some documents for the next big story. Look out, Page One gods: another Wilke special is on its way.

Even his wardrobe stayed the same. There was the "all- bluejean" outfit - a blue jean shirt, blue jean dungarees, and a red tie. A grey suit for formal occasions. And the blue parka vest. If anyone hasn't claimed it, I'm offering to frame it and donate it to the Newseum. Or Mackey's.

The Journal is full of good reporters, but few were as exciting - and old school - as John. He stayed up late. He came in early. He took colleagues and sources out for drinks at all hours. He spoke the lingo of a true newsman. "Can you lock it down?" he'd ask when one of his colleagues came to him with a tip.

He loved what he did, and that passion inspired his coworkers. You knew you couldn't equal him, but his example made you want to try. And he always made time to help his colleagues out when they needed his advice.

John exuded skepticism toward the powerful. But to his colleagues, he was a tender-hearted bear. When I stopped to say goodbye to him on my last day before leaving the bureau to start a new job overseas, he threw his arms around me, drew me in, and gave me a big hug. It threw me off guard, and made me feel so special. What I'd give to have that moment back.

Stephen Power

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