The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

In the Spotlight

May 26, 2007

Man gained fame tracking Bigfoot

LIGONIER — Except for a chance encounter one night with a tall, dark stranger, 85-year-old Sam Sherry’s name might not now appear on the Internet, in yellowed magazine and newspaper clippings – and in a smattering of books about strange phenomenon.

There was little remarkable about Sherry before that night.

He grew up in the small Ligonier Valley town of Wilpen and became a steelworker. He was drafted, fought the Japanese from island to island during World War II, then spent more than two years in hospitals from war wounds.

He returned home and married a local girl, the former Naomi Swank. The couple eventually moved into the same house where Sam had been born. They raised two children – a son who is a Chicago-area priest and a daughter who lives in Blairsville.

But almost exactly 20 years ago – on May 17, 1987 – Sam met Bigfoot.

And everything changed.

Prior to that, the biggest thing that had happened to him was being wounded during the war.

His wife said he came home from the South Pacific just days before Christmas 1944.

“His mother got a telegram – ‘If you want to see your son alive, hurry to Valley Forge Army Hospital,’ ” Naomi said.

“When they came to see him, his body was like stone. He had lost the use of his arms and legs, and he couldn’t talk. He had to learn everything over again, like a baby.”

After about two years, he was discharged from the hospital – but he left the service permanently disabled.

“He wasn’t able to go out and work, but he did like to go fishing and hunting,” Naomi said. “That’s what he really lived for.”

Sam earned his reputation as a tough bird. He still carries shrapnel in his body and a steel plate in his skull from the war.

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