Analy woodworking students create pens as gifts for little-known veterans group

  • Riley Swift, 15, a sophomore at Analy High School, made pens along with other woodworking students that were handed out to veterans. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Enclosed in the thank-you note from Francis "Pete" Reynnet was a photo of a pen propped up against Reynnet's military medals from his service in World War II.

But it wasn't just any pen.

Handcrafted by sophomore Riley Swift, the cherry wood writing implement was one of 21 pens handmade by Analy High School woodshop students and given to veterans of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization, a group of about 2,500 mostly Navy sailors who worked in occupied China before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II.

"It was just a little pen that I made, ranking up there with his war medals that he got. It was really, really great," Swift said of the photo Reynnet sent along with his words of thanks.

The gifting of the handcrafted pens came about through Judy Barbieri of Santa Rosa whose father, the late John McAfee, served in the SACO project as a naval storekeeper. He never attended the annual reunions that SACO veterans have been organizing for nearly six decades, but Barbieri began attending to get a better sense of what her father went through during the war.

"It was such a part of my father's history," she said. "They are all like dads to me. They are just wonderful men."

Barbieri served as the SACO alumni group's president last year and organized a reunion in Sonoma County. This summer, the group went to Indianapolis where they were presented with the Analy students' pens.

"I was a little surprised," the 87-year-old Reynnet said. "I really appreciated it. To remember an old guy from 60 years ago."

"It's really a nice piece of work," said Ken Brown, 89, of Laramie, Wyo.

Sophomore Jordan Padilla said it was a meaningful project.

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