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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We love you brother Wilke

Wilke first swept into my life when I was a green as grass reporter at the Journal. Unbeknownst to me, Wilke had gotten approval for a Page 1 story about a simmering war between Microsoft and Eastman Kodak Co. My boss, Gary Putka, was furious that the beat reporter who covered Kodak (that would be me) was utterly clueless about the dispute. Putka instructed me to muscle my way into the story at all cost.

When Wilke and I first spoke, I'd been prepared to flash my sharp Boston bureau elbows, but Wilke's aw-shucks charm disarmed me. We made a pact: I was going away on a long-planned vacation, and upon my return, we agreed, we'd both travel to Rochester together to interview the Kodak folks. I was more than a little star-struck about the prospect of learning the craft from the great John Wilke.

But the trip never happened. I returned from vacation to learn that Wilke had trekked to Rochester alone. There was competitive pressure, Wilke said vaguely, and reluctantly, he'd been forced to press on in my absence. Well, was there anything left for me to do? Not really. The final story was 99.9 percent Wilke, and utterly brilliant. Though my role in the project was laughably negligible, Wilke -- generous man that he was -- agreed to share a byline.

He'd had taken out all of my front teeth. And I was utterly smitten.

Over the next years we would speak probably once a week. Usually when I was in DC, I'd meet for dinner and drinks with his band of reporters, sources and assorted groupies. I will never forget those nights.

Wilke personified the kind of reporter I wanted to be: fearless, passionate, relentless, always giving chase. He was so pure. He took me and many other rookies under his wing, and reveled in our triumphs. His own victories filled us with pride. I can't count the number of times I heard colleagues say: "Did you see that great Wilke story?"

Wilke took his work seriously, but he never took himself seriously. He was a rare optimist in a profession of gloomy Puddleglums. When the new owner took over at the Wall Street Journal, Wilke didn't turn catastrophist as many of us did. He just kept doing great work.

The fact that I will never sit down to quaff a beer or four with Wilke again makes me immeasurably sad.

We love you brother Wilke.

James Bandler

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