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October 4, 2013

Photos, Story: Wherry honored with Salute to Courage award

NEW CASTLE — James “Jim” Wherry is not accustomed to being in the spotlight.

But all eyes were on him last night as Wherry was honored at the annual New Castle Community YMCA’s Salute to Courage dinner at the Villa Banquet Center. It was just three days before his 76th birthday.

Wherry had enjoyed three years of retirement from Interstate Chemical in Hermitage, where he had been a payroll administrator, when life threw him a curve ball. He suffered a  major stroke in July 2005.

Before that, the Neshannock Township resident golfed, biked, traveled extensively and volunteered for such groups as the Lawrence County Association for the Blind and Habitat for Humanity. That all changed when the family was told that Wherry had sustained the most damaging type of stroke and was unlikely to be rehabilitated.

His wife of 53 years, Elaine, and sons, Jeffrey of New Castle and Michael of Upper St. Clair were hopeful but also discouraged about the days that were ahead. Yet, this husband, father and grandfather to five surprised them with his desire to get better and live a full, active life again.

That hasn’t entirely happened. Wherry never regained use of his right arm and hand, wears a brace that extends from his foot to calf, uses a cane to walk and has difficulty smiling with some drooping on the right side of his face. He also is unable to drive, which he misses greatly.

“I had to teach myself to eat and write with my left hand,” he said.

But he focuses on the achievable — playing bridge several times a week, computer browsing, doing jigsaw puzzles, taking short walks and reading.

Since Wherry had the stroke, he and Elaine have gone on five cruises and plan to do more. He will continue attending his grandchildren’s’ sporting events, go to the movies and out to dinner, and stay involved at his church, First Presbyterian. He is also grateful that he didn’t have serious speech problems, which are often associated with stroke victims.

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