Farmer Hailed a Hero after Dying While Trying to Save Others during Devastating Floods

Rebelander Basilan
Mar 20, 2019
10:20 P.M.

Columbus farmer James Wilke is being hailed as a hero after he tried to ride his tractor out to help a stranded motorist.


James, 50, started up his huge tractor and went to help, disregarding the wind and rain after he was requested to assist emergency responders recently.

"He was always the first to go help somebody. He was a person who wouldn't just talk about making things better. He would do it."

James drove his tractor over the Shell Creek bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge gave out, sending him down the flooded creek.



At the point when neighbors heard he was missing, dozens turned out to search for him. In a Facebook post, a family friend named Jodi Hefti wrote:

"James’ body was recovered later in the afternoon along the creek bed close to their home. Those who know James know it was his way of telling his wife, family, and friends goodbye and that he is 'home.'"

"Not all HEROES wear capes or uniforms. I know a TRUE HERO who wore a T-shirt, blue jeans, work boots and drove a John Deer Tractor," Hefti added.


Paul Wilke, James’ cousin, was able to rescue the stranded driver after his cousin was swept away. In an interview with Omaha World-Herald, Paul said:

"He was always the first to go help somebody. He was a person who wouldn't just talk about making things better. He would do it."


Since childhood, James was active in Christ Lutheran Church. He attended grade school there and graduated from Lakeview High School in the late 1980s.


He and his better half, Rachel, have three children, Julianne, Colton, and Addie. Many people remembered him pitching in to help other people.

About a decade ago, James took action when he found out about the attempted burglary at his neighbor's house.

He bravely faced the suspects with a gun when he saw them walking along a street near his house. He then held them until police arrived.

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