November 08, 2019

United States of America - Air Force

By Steven Soria

In celebration of Veterans Day weekend, we wanted to honor the vets in our family, and the ones in yours. Fred Soria was the original leather craftsman in our family, who over the years, taught us the leather trade. Fred served in WW2 in the Air force. After completeing his tour in Europe and returning home to the U.S.A. he worked for Dick May Saddlery in Santa Barbara Ca. (see images below of two saddles that Fred Soria hand tooled). They are now on display at the Carriage Museum in Santa Barbara CA. (Circa 1950-1955)

"Fred G. Soria died peacefully in his home in Fort Bragg, Calif., where he lived the last four years of his life. Fred was born and raised in Santa Barbara to Mexican immigrants. He graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1940 and moved to San Francisco to attend college before being drafted into the armed forces in 1941. Upon completion of U.S. Air Force cadet training, Fred was assigned to Pauling Convalescent Hospital in Pauling, New York as an occupational therapist, where he oversaw the activities of the wounded soldiers, taught Spanish lessons, arts and crafts, and worked as an interpreter. At the time of his discharge on Feb. 14, 1946, he was Chief Occupational Therapist. Fred then returned to Santa Barbara and briefly owned a saddle shop, creating beautiful, hand-carved saddles and other leather goods. Fred was a talented artist and developed a national reputation for his hand-tooled leather saddles and handbags." (exerpt taken from

I shot this photo of his personal hand-tooled leather photo journal during the service of his passing in 2012. I had to reconstruct some of the pixels here on the stitching because it was a little deteriorated. But you can see the excellent knife carving technique and a blend of military and traditional oak leaf with a California poppy in the corners, and a few acorns trickled in. This is a great piece. Thanks for your service uncle Fred.

Fred Soria - United States of America Air Force Division

Dick May Saddlery