Fred Sherman, 86, a former business commentator for KYW-AM (1060), died yesterday morning after suffering from multiple health problems.

The onetime economist for local banks was perhaps best known for his distinctive, nasal tone and how he signed off on his radio and television commentaries: "This is Fred Sherrrrrman."

A recent car accident had added to his health problems, which included kidney trouble.

"I think his body just kind of gave out. He was such a fighter. He was just a hero," said Diane Williams, his longtime fiancee, who 17 years ago walked up to Mr. Sherman at a speech to ask for financial advice.

Mr. Sherman was one of three brothers born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Williams said. His mother was a teacher, and his father owned a candy store, which gave the young Mr. Sherman his first taste of business.

He took classes at New York University, but didn't stay long enough to earn a degree, Williams said.

During World War II, Mr. Sherman served as an 82d Airborne Army Ranger and flew missions over France just before and after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

Mr. Sherman toyed with going into journalism at one point, but wound up in his in-laws' furniture business. At age 60, he got his stockbroker's license and eventually became chief economist at Sovereign Bank and at Royal Bank America in Narberth.

Don Lancer, who retired after being KYW's business and financial editor for 37 years, said Sherman called him 25 years ago to critique the station's financial news at the time: dull. He told Lancer he could make financial news more entertaining.

After a tryout report, Mr. Sherman was hired and spiced up his pieces with wit, rhyme, and irreverence.

"He knew how to inject humor into very dull subjects," Lancer said. "He was very witty, concise, and he just sounded like a nice guy . . . knowledgeable."

Mr. Sherman started elongating his name after hearing another reporter use the same style. The Sherrrrrman sign-off stuck - some people loved it, some winced. Williams said Mr. Sherman liked being a celebrity and went out of his way to talk with fans and critics alike.

As a Philadelphia personality, Mr. Sherman also appeared on WPEN-AM (950) with The Money Show and did weekly reports on NBC10's Sunday morning news.

KYW cut Mr. Sherman's commentaries in January, citing tight finances.

Mr. Sherman loved golf and his sons, Williams said. One of them, Henry, died in 2000 after battling lung cancer.

Mr. Sherman and Williams traveled extensively. It was shortly after their trip to Europe in July that the car accident injured him, and he was in and out of medical facilities until yesterday.

In addition to Williams, Mr. Sherman is also survived by his son David.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Huff & Lakjer Funeral Home, 701 Derstine Ave., Lansdale, where friends may call after 10. A reception will follow at the William Penn Inn, Route 202 and Sumneytown Pike, Gwynedd.

Contact staff writer Carolyn Davis at 215-854-4214 or cdavis@phillynews.com.