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The Gentle Giant

An unidentified man and Jack Fasig

John Sherman "Jack" Fasig was born on 18 March 1894 in Lancaster County, PA where his father, John Sr. had a tobacco farm.

He moved with his family to Newark in upstate New York. Jack graduated from Newark High School "with honors." He took up boxing and in 1911, when he was just 17 years old, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal called his a "physical marvel" who stood "6 feet, 6 inches in height; 225 pounds and not an ounce of fat...."

Jack then enrolled at Cornell University, but for some reason, it he did not attend. Instead he pursued a professional boxing career in Syracuse shortly after his eighteenth birthday.

A year later, the family moved back to Lancaster County. Jack resumed his boxing career. Although he was gifted physically, he never became the champion that people predicted.

A few years later, his parents separated. Jack went to Manheim with his father and his younger sister Laura went to Lancaster with their mother. He would visit his mother and sister twice a week for many years. Jack's maternal grandmother also lived in Lancaster and would often visit her. When Jack visited his mother and sister, his mother would cook one of his favorite meals. If he was there for breakfast, he would eat a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon and drink enormous bowls (not cups) of coffee.

At maximum size he stood 7 feet tall and weighed over 325 pounds.

He later gave up boxing and began wrestling and strength demonstrations for carnivals and circuses. In his carnival displays, he threw a 100-pound dumbell into the air and caught it with either his wrist or neck. He purportedly lifted a weight of 250 pounds with one hand and some claimed that he could lift horses and cars off the ground.

At the age of 26, when other men were breeding cattle and horses, Jack went to bulldogs and fighting cocks. His fighting cocks were crated and shipped to customers as far away as Japan and China. Although cock fighting was illegal, Jack skirted the law by claiming that he sold the eggs and not the fighting chickens.

He worked for the Armstrong Cork Company for a time, now known as a major flooring and ceiling product manufacturer. Jack would lift 200-pound drums of paint onto a truck when there was an audience, using a chain block at other times. But one day, he decided that he had had enough of work. He quit and withdrew a considerable sum of money that he had invested with the company's building and loan association. He then went on a clothes kick, saying he had become tired of people thinking of him as a bum. he would walk down the streets of Lancaster, done up in high fashion with a derby hat and cane with one of his ferocious-looking bulldogs on a leash. The Lancaster newspapers referred to him as "Diamond Jack" or "Fashion Plate Jack" and Jack loved it.

One time Jack came across a man who had driven his car into the mud. Jack offered to pull it out for pay. After he hauled the car out of the mud, the owner refused to pay him. So Jack pushed the car back into the mud.

He was intelligent and proved it in many ways. He knew and could sing opera and freely quote Shakespeare. His favorite composer was Beethoven and his best loved opera was "Faust."

However, Jack was his own worst enemy. Jack began to drink during Prohibition. He also got into bootlegging. He hid his stock on a farm, near Manheim, but not well enough to fool the Feds. He was indicted and tried in a federal court in Philadelphia. "I'm a hard working farmer," Jack told the judge, "and I often get pretty wet in the rain. I've got to have my liquor. I can't afford to buy it so I make it myself. I did sell a quart to a prohibition agent, but I was tricked by an ingrate I took in out of the snow. He cam back with four agents, so here I am." His fine was $5. After the trial, a Philadelphia newspaper headlined an article about the case" Lancaster Co. Giant Acts as Own Attorney, Wins Case."

Sometimes he would drink too much and took poor care of himself. It was declared that it took six policemen to subdue him when he was in his cups. He would sometimes be seen carrying huge barrels of beer or hard liquor for miles at a time.

On Monday, 18 February 1929, he was arrested in Manheim on a charge of disorderly conduct when Wayne Hershey and his family returned from a trip and found Jack seated in their meat truck. The truck was outside the garage and the rear door of the vehicle had been broken off. Jack was released the next day after he paid the fine and costs.

On 19 November 1941, Jack was arrested in Lancaster and charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct. He asked for clemency on the grounds that he had some livestock to take care of. He was fined $5 and costs, which he paid, and was released.

Jack was again charged with disorderly conduct in February 1944 when he took a large dog into a tap-room one Friday night and frightened most of the patrons from the place. He was fined $10 and ordered to pay the costs of prosecution.

His health deteriorated as he got older. He lived in his one-room home in a woods on the outskirts of Manheim and became a virtual recluse in his later years.

On Tuesday, 20 November 1951, Jack was stricken ill about 5:30 p.m. while being visited by Edgar Reineer who had brought him dinner. Reineer returned to his home several blocks away and summoned Jack's physician and an ambulance. There was a delay in reaching Jack as two pet dogs stood guard inside the door, refusing to allow the doctor to enter. After they were calmed by persons attracted to the scene, they found Jack dead on the floor, a little black dog curled up in his arms. Jack was dead of a massive heart attack at the age of 57.


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