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SMITH: Hanna's band of brothers without its Father

Walter Linares and J.T. Trainor aren’t actual brothers, but try telling them that.

Aimless and trouble-prone as adolescents, both are doing extremely well in their 20s and proudly regard themselves sons of Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center and its now former director, Father John Crews.

“We’re all practically brothers,” said Trainor, 24, and the holder of a master’s degree in finance, of the fraternity of Hanna graduates. A customer service rep for Exchange Bank, he said the bond that links Hanna boys and graduates to the live-in reform school, to each other and to Crews “is something you can never fully describe to someone who’s never been there.”

Neither he nor Linares, who’s 28 and the sales and marketing coordinator for the Sacramento Kings basketball team, can judge with certainty the allegation that Crews engaged in sexual misconduct with a boy long before they were born, and before the priest took the helm at Hanna.

But both said they cannot believe it is true.

“It’s like, no way,” Linares said. “He’s our father figure, our hero.”

Trainor said, “He’s been the turning point in so many young people’s lives. He’s saved so many people. It just doesn’t add up to me. I could never believe it to be true.”

ARRIVE AT HANNA as a defiant and probably scared 13- or 14-year-old, Linares said, and “Father is the first person you meet.”

He and Trainor said it was Crews who for nearly 30 years sat a boy down, welcomed him and asked if he would sign a pledge, a contract, to follow the rules and to work hard to become a better person.

“He’s funny as hell,” Linares said. “And also he makes you feel like you’re making a huge decision in your life.”

Having grown up tough and largely unsupervised in San Francisco, Linares said Crews declared to him that he would be provided all possible assistance with the difficult challenge of changing his life.

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