Wilke was, of course, a great journalist. And he was a kind of glue that held the bureau together. Smiling, thoughtful, welcoming of newcomers, happy to have a bunch of beers in a bureau that can be very serious.
But I was struck recently by how he handled his disease. He came to work when he could, fat file folders under his arms. He worked the phones, barricaded by stacks of paper that surrounded him like mountains. He was ready to talk about a story, but he had practiced responses to questions about his disease. Polite, but no real info. He was alive and working, which I think were synonymous to him.
I admired that, though I tried to wheedle information out of him, of course. Reporter to reporter. Friend to friend.
What I mostly admired – was floored by, really – was when he turned out to celebrate at his pal Gruley’s book party. It was obviously tough for him to make it. He tired. He sat more than he stood. He didn’t – couldn’t I’m sure – have a beer. But he was there for a friend he loved, whatever the personal cost. He was alive, and everyone there was made more alive by his presence.