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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Wilke Tribute #403

I had the privilege of knowing John Wilke for more than 26 years, working with him both at Business Week and the Wall Street Journal and maintaining a friendship despite often being separated by long distances.

We first met as fellow students at the Columbia Journalism School. At that point, the school still had antiquated manual typewriters. With the conspiratorial air that I came to know and love, Wilke (for he was known that way even back then) took me to his dorm one day and proudly showed me his writing instrument. It was an Osborne computer, one of the first ever portable PCs, the size of a small suitcase with a tiny, flickering green screen.

That was vintage Wilke – ahead of the curve on everything. I was green around the gills; Wilke already had a sheaf of solid clips, from the NY Times and elsewhere.

I've never met anybody as relentlessly curious about everything. He was the consummate news hound. He carried around a sheaf of newspapers, and was always pulling out stories he really admired. He lived for the story, whether it was government secrets, Congressional wrongdoing, or the latest office gossip.

At one late-night sushi dinner in New York many moons ago, I was oblivious to the fact that we were sitting next to David Bowie. Not Wilke, who managed to eavesdrop on every word. "Are we going out tonight?" the inimitable Bowie asked his companions, according to John's whispered report. "Or out out?" Since it was already well past midnight, we gathered that "out out" was REALLY late.

"Going out, or out out" ever after became an inside joke about our evening plans, whenever we managed to find time together.

A bit of a perfectionist, John had certain pet bugaboos – people misusing the term "champing at the bit" was one. I remember him once reflexively correcting a top official for saying "chomping at the bit" during a post-press conference scrum, then berating himself for hours afterward. "I didn't really correct him, did I?" he'd say in a half whisper.

When I moved to Boston in the early 1990s from London, I complained there wasn't a big journalistic community. Wilke promptly created one. He whistled up a "posse" of reporters from the Globe, technology papers, wire services, national magazines, and elsewhere, and we started an informal correspondent's club that met semi-regularly at Jacob Wirth's and other watering holes.

Then, and on many evenings since, the evening often came to a screeching halt when John, half apologetic, finally made his third call of the night to Nancy, assuring her that this time he really was on his way home. "I have to ensure domestic tranquility," he'd announce, donning his brown leather bomber jacket before heading off into the night.

I will miss him every day.

Mark Maremont

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