"Always cheerful, and incredibly optimistic, cynicism seemed something he was incapable of. We could all stand to be a little like John Wilke."
- - – David Berman
I lost a good friend to pancreatic cancer on Friday.
John R. Wilke was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and we had worked together on a few stories over the years.
One fun piece had to do with billionaire Mario Gabelli, who was defrauding U.S. taxpayers over the sale of radio bandwidth of the kind used for cell phones. The Federal Government declined the case, and I called up John and gave him the story.
In the best Wilke tradition, the story was put together with seamless stitching, and made it on to the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Twice. Each time with a picture of Gabelli.
Embarrassed by the news coverage, the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice reversed course and joined the lawsuit. Gabelli settled the case shortly thereafter, paying Uncle Sam $135 million.
At about the same time I was pitching Wilke the Gabelli story, I was also pitching him a possible story about a fellow by the name of Bernie Madoff.
Later John took a bit of stick from the chattering class who suggested The Wall Street Journal missed the obvious.
Sorry. Not true. And I guess I should know, as I was there.
Sometimes you hook a fish so large you are pretty sure it's a log and not a fish. Madoff was one of those. If Wilke broke line on this one occasion, it did not mean he was not the best angler on the stream bank that day or any day.
But don't take my word for it: Read any of these columns. And read his obituary in today's Washington Post.
Now, because this is a dog blog, I will conclude with this small note: John was the owner of a Border Collie. "A slick," he was always quick to add, just so you knew that he knew.
And I own a Border Terrier.
Eh? What do they look like, John wanted to know?
I sent him the video below to illustrate the finer points between the two breeds.
John laughed. He got it. He always did. Be good brother; you were always loved.