West Hartford Woman Learns About Brother’s World War II Remains From Stranger

For most of her life, Estelle Sherry has known only that her 22-year-old brother died in Italy during World War II. But thanks to the work of one man she's never met, she now knows what happened to her brother.

It all started with a letter from Italy and a stranger holding answers for a family who has lived in the dark for 70 years.

"It's like going through a death all over again," said Estelle Sherry.

In 1942 Estelle's older brother joined the United States Army Air Forces to fight in World War II. First Lieutenant Herschel Howard Mattes nicknamed his kid sister Steloola, and that's what he decided to name the plane he flew.

Two years later, after his deployment to Europe, his family was simply told he wouldn't be coming home.

"He was listed as killed in action. That's all we knew," said Estelle. "We knew it was in Italy. Nothing else."

That is until Estelle's son, Stephen, received that letter. It revealed what happened to the uncle he's only heard stories about.

"It's difficult knowing that there are people you have never met and have very little knowledge of and that are lost," said Stephen Sherry.

The letter came from Dr. Vincenzo Lucherini. He lives in Manziana, Italy, the place he says Mattes died.

During the war Americans liberated the city from German occupation.

"He felt any of the Americans who were killed or went down in that town should be honored and back to their families," said Estelle.

Through correspondence the family discovered that during a mission targeting railway cars the 22-year-old's plane was shot down. It's believed his remains are buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy.

For most of her life Estelle has wondered what happened, and now a complete stranger has brought her hope her brother may finally come home.

"In any day and age to have someone who is that kind and concerned I think is amazing. Just amazing," said Estelle.

Estelle says those with the Department of Defense do believe her brother has been located. The next step is to do DNA testing.

On Saturday Estelle and her family will meet Dr. Lucherini for the first time.

Contact Us