Hudson star swimmer dies

Published May 30, 2007

HUDSON - Ed Wilke heard the distinct roar of his twin brother's ATV, then saw him ride by.

Ed felt his cell phone vibrate 20 minutes later. A voice on the other end shared the bad news: There had been an accident and Jon was being flown to Bayfront Medical Center.

Ed rushed to his brother's side.

"I basically saw him before they even cleaned him up, " Ed Wilke said. "They said he basically had no chance of living. He basically was found on the scene dead."

Jon Wilke died Sunday, five days after his four-wheeler rolled several times and crashed into a cement pole, his brother said.

He wasn't wearing a helmet.

"Lately he started to pick up not wearing a helmet to be with his friends and not be out of the loop, " Ed Wilke said. "Normally, he wears everything."

Jon, 18, was the youngest of four siblings. He was entering his senior year at Hudson High, was an avid swimmer, baseball player and wanted to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.

Jon spent the past few years building bikes and taking them apart. He could identify problems with motorcycles and took classes to learn about the inner workings of cars.

The twins have been riding motorized dirt bikes for several years and recently got a pair of four-wheelers.

"He wanted to be a big-time mechanic, " Ed Wilke said. "He wanted to get a big house for him and his friends."

Jon will be remembered as a successful swimmer and a leader at Hudson's pool. Along with Ed, he teamed with Chris Pearce and Andy Demopoulos in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. He swam the third leg.

The four shared a camaraderie that grew strong through practice, competition and friendship.

"Everyone was always trying to be like him, " Demopoulos said. "He was one of the best. He was dedicated."

They almost broke a school record, coming within 1, 000th of a second in the 400 relay, Hudson coach Julie Heise said.

Pearce said he didn't realize the severity of the accident when he first heard about it and went on with plans to attend a NASCAR race in North Carolina. Updates from Hudson coach Julie Heise only made Pearce more concerned about Jon, whom he had known since they played Little League together.

He never got to say goodbye.

"I found out he passed away, " Pearce said. "I pretty much fell apart."

Though Jon never regained consciousness, his mother, Margaret, stayed with him until the end.

Hudson's swim team was scheduled to meet Tuesday night for a workout and to try and begin healing.

Viewing will be Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. at Dobies Funeral Home, 9944 Hudson Ave. The funeral is Thursday at 7 p.m.

"When you're losing your best swimmer, you're not just losing a great swimmer, " Heise said. "You're losing a son, a best friend, a leader. You just have to pick yourselves up and try to get back to work."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or 727 580-5315.