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Lancaster county man made a name for himself by making names for others

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Watching Randy Johnson convert gold filled wire rods into customized name pins is a thing of beauty.

It's been a comfort zone for this 88-year-old Lancaster artisan for more than seven decades.

"Everything, with the exception of a couple of letters, is done as you would write it with a pencil," he said, adroitly twisting wire into a scripted name pin using only a pair of pliers and 70 plus years of experience.

When he was still in high school, his pins were drawing rave reviews from friends and family. But, it wasn't until he made one for a fellow soldier during a troop transport in World War Two that something clicked. Others on that ship mobbed him with pin requests.

"For the next ten weeks I made pins for all the guys on the ship. My fingers were so sore, I had to tape them up," he recalled.

"And what did that tell me I didn't know I had before? I've got something I didn't know I had."

He decided then to make a name for himself by making names for others. After the war, Johnson toured the country, making pins and selling them along the way. It was at one of those stops that he met the woman who would share his sense of adventure and travel for the next 62 years. Her name was Florence, but everyone called her Boots. Randy and Boots became fixtures at craft shows, carnivals and fairs, while at the same time raising their children and running a trophy shop in Lancaster. Over the years, Johnson estimates he has made between 200 and 250-thousand name pins. Guest books from past shows feature names of customers from around the world. And many local customers returned periodically to add birthstones to grandma pins or to have new pins made for the next generation.

"I've had a good life. We've done a lot of travelling all over the world. " Johnson said. "And we did what I wanted to do. I'm not rich, but I didn't have a problem."

Contact Randy Johnson at randysnames@yahoo.com or 717-394-5967.

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