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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The early years

I’ve been reading about John on this site these past few weeks, and wanted to add a few words – I knew John well throughout junior high school and high school. The last time we were in touch he was still in Boston, soon after he moved to the Journal. I have seen and spoken with David since then, but even with David, I have not been in contact for a long time. David, Mark, Mrs. Wilke and everyone close to John, including his “own” family whom I never was lucky enough to meet – my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Here’s what’s crystalline in my mind about John – a big heart, always open to inviting one more person along, one more thought in; biting truth, not uttered to be mean, but because it was the truth and had to be said; boundless sly humor, and that wonderful little grin that meant he was really hatching a good idea now; a love of friends who were all truly the “different ones” in high school; a great pen, ready to write insightful criticism even in a 10th grade Honors English class; admiration for Mark and his Woodstockian, highschool-ish adventures; long blond hair and those wire rim glasses. John loved to eat, drink and laugh. John did not suffer fools, cheats, or assholes gladly. John wasn’t afraid of taking people on. John was a gentle soul. John loved his brothers. John loved a good game.

I was raised Jewish, and John’s family Christmas tree was the first one I was ever invited to help decorate. His rambling family house on Walworth X was a great place to visit and even now, when I pass the street, a feeling of warmth comes over me.

Here are some times with John that rise to the surface for me: Wandering at the Kensico Dam. Introducing other friends and me to the Rolling Stones Let It Bleed album. Going with Ana and me to see the movie Oliver (yes, we saw Oliver, I know it’s hard to believe….). Hanging out and playing music. Reading poetry. Visiting the Bahai House. Talking at the anti-war demonstrations in school. Walking downtown together. Saying, “Yeh, come on over!” Replying with a big smile to a particularly nasty substitute homeroom teacher, “Yes, as a matter of fact, my dad DID write that excuse note with his feet!”

John was a mensch, a fully dimensioned, complex, great human being. I will miss him. May his memory be a blessing to all who loved him.

Ilene Semiatin

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