Thomas Buckley -- devoted to study of Bigfoot Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, July 1, 2007 If there is one thing clear from the writings of Thomas Arthur Buckley, it is that the legendary beast known as Bigfoot was misnamed. The hairy ape-man, also known as Sasquatch, did not really have inordinately large feet for his size, according to Mr. Buckley, an expert on ambulation. What he had, Mr. Buckley wrote, was an enormous posterior. Mr. Buckley, of all people, would know. He not only studied Sasquatch footprints, but claimed he once looked the foul-smelling forest dweller right in the eye after luring it out of its hiding place with what he said was "friendship and fish." The 89-year-old Bigfoot aficionado, who wrote extensively and talked on television about the elusive giant, died on June 18 at the Canyonwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Redding. His funeral was held Monday. It was probably just a coincidence that Mr. Buckley's death came on the 37th anniversary of the day he said he came face to face with the haunch-heavy brute and lived to tell about it. Known to almost everyone as Archie, Mr. Buckley was born in 1917 in Alameda and raised in the island city. He played football and basketball and excelled as a pole vaulter at Alameda High School, where he graduated in 1936. He lugged cameras for Ansel Adams in Yosemite in the summers of his youth, making friends with local American Indians, adopting their spiritual beliefs and developing a lifelong love of the wilderness. He played a bit part in the movie "Robin Hood," starring Errol Flynn, while attending Chico State University, where he graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in education. He married in 1942 and enlisted in the Army during World War II. During the war, Mr. Buckley became a pioneer in the new field of physical therapy, serving as chief of physical reconditioning at McCloskey General Hospital, a Texas facility that specialized in amputation and neurosurgery. After the war, he worked at the Veterans Administration hospitals in Oakland and Martinez, where he did extensive research on amputees and the benefits of rehabilitative exercise for the wounded and elderly. His work on geriatric amputees was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1959. Mr. Buckley was a member of numerous national medical associations and was on the U.S. Board of Civil Service Examiners for physical therapists, but he was best known for his alleged encounters with Bigfoot. He was fascinated by the giant, bipedal ape and began venturing out into the Trinity Alps in the 1960s hoping to find the beast's lair. His grandson, Cole Hudson, said he would hang salmon and shad 10 feet high in the trees and make "oook, oook" sounds in the night, trying to attract the creature. On the night of June 18, 1970, an 8-foot-tall Sasquatch lumbered into his camp just south of the Trinity Alps and began gobbling the fish, Hudson said. Mr. Buckley "was sleeping in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle at the time," said Hudson, relating the story he heard numerous times. "He got a flashlight out, and it walked right over to the car and looked through the glass. They were almost face to face. It was an adult male over 8 feet tall. They exchanged glances for 10 to 15 seconds." That was Mr. Buckley's closest encounter with Bigfoot, but he said he spotted several other hairy ape-men striding around subsequent camps and heard them wailing in the woods. In his 1984 "Report on Sasquatch Field Findings," Mr. Buckley said he found evidence of a dozen different Bigfoot individuals in the Sierra and Trinity mountains. The report claimed the size of Sasquatch's feet had been "grossly exaggerated" but marveled at other attributes. "Their gluteal muscles are extremely large, particularly the gluteus maximus," he wrote. Mr. Buckley also vouched for the legitimacy of the controversial 1967 Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson. "A key to the authenticity of his film is solidified in the size of her butt!" Mr. Patterson wrote about the striding creature. "No hoaxer could have dreamed that one up!" Mr. Buckley's observations came at a time of great public interest in the Bigfoot phenomenon. A collection of San Francisco-area Bigfoot researchers, including Mr. Buckley, formed the Bay Area Group to study the gangly gorilla-man. He and his fellow cryptozoologists were featured hunting the creature on an episode of "In Search Of" with Leonard Nimoy, titled "Monster Hunters," in November 1978. There were, of course, plenty of skeptics who took great joy in exposing hoaxes. The most infamous liar was Ray Wallace, who confessed on his deathbed a few years ago that the hulking creature he captured on home-movie footage was really his wife dressed in a gorilla suit. Nevertheless, Hudson said, his grandfather believed in Bigfoot and hoped until his dying day that the endangered unidentified mammal would one day be protected. "He was unflagging in his belief," Hudson said. "He was very disappointed that there were people out there who were trying to take advantage of actual findings by throwing hoaxes into the mix." Mr. Buckley is survived by his wife of 65 years, Rhea Buckley, of San Leandro; daughters, Diane Hudson of Dublin and Sharon Winton of Shasta; son, Bill Buckley of Redding; five grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren.