December 15, 2005

Pinckney alum spurns Hollywood for home
By Christopher Behnan

Some may recognize John Wilkie as the dancing Klansman character
from the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Or a special forces agent
in "Armageddon," or an alien warrior on TV's "Star Trek: Voyager."
Closer to home, Wilkie might be better known for playing on Pinckney High
School's undefeated football team in 1977.

Livingston County cancer survivors, and families with loved ones suffering
from the disease, may know of him for yet another reason.

Wilkie, who goes by the nickname "John Bro," gave up a lucrative career
in movies and television in Hollywood, Calif., in 2003 to care for his brother,
Ron, who was dying of cancer in Hamburg Township.  Wilkie, a Screen Actors
Guild member who accumulated 20 years as a "bit player" on the big screen
and on television, left everything behind — including his car — when he
learned his brother was dying.

"I thought about it, and realized this is a time you don't get back. When he
got sick...we got to be closer friends than we ever were, and I certainly don't
regret my decision," Wilkie said.

Ron died about nine months later.

Flash forward one year. Wilkie now lives at a family-owned home on Strawberry Lake in Hamburg Township. He has
committed himself to local theater and music, and makes ends meet as a night manager at a local gas station.

He no longer rubs elbows with the likes of John Travolta, Fred Savage or Valerie Bertinelli, although he recently helped
produce a theatrical production at W.J. Maxey Boys Training School in Green Oak Township. He's also worked with the
church orchestra at Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church in Brighton Township, and performed at the Hamburg Pub.

"I didn't just say, 'I'm out of here,' " he said. "I'm kind of grounded with the community here. I like getting involved with
kids, and tell them if they pursue their dreams, they'll actually get to live some of them."

Rick Beaudin, a Livingston County Relay for Life volunteer, met Wilkie at the gas station and was impressed with his
story of sacrifice.

"I don't think there's a lot of people that would give up so much. Here we see him in everyday life," Beaudin said.

While Wilkie doesn't talk about his Hollywood career endlessly, he does take pride in two roles as an alien on television
for more reasons than one.

His roles as giant aliens on "Star Trek:Voyager" and "Space: Above and Beyond" led to a real-life role as a "spokesman"
for paranormal and suspected alien life.

He was soon sought out for radio and television interviews on the topic, and has written several published articles
about UFOs.

"I'm not a big famous guy, (but) I've dabbled in a lot of stuff," Wilkie said of his multifaceted career, which has also
included stunt and voiceover work. "I've got one of those faces that people recognize, but they're not sure where

Originally published December 15, 2005
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