Fanny Hastings Arnold, benefactor of Hastings Reserve, 1914-2013


Fanny Hastings Arnold, a longtime supporter of the NRS’s Hastings Natural History Reservation and daughter of the landowners who donated the reserve to the University of California, died November 18, 2013, at her home in Menlo Park. She was 99.

Fanny was the only child of Russell Platt Hastings and Frances Simes Hastings. She was born at her parents’ home in Palo Alto in May of 1914. Though her given name was Frances, she was called Fanny all her adult life.

Fanny’s mother, Frances Simes Hastings purchased a 1,600-acre ranch in Carmel Valley in 1927. Fanny attended the Carmel Valley Ranch School and developed a deep love for the outdoors, native plants, and wildlife. In 1927, the Hastings family offered UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Biology access to the ranch to study plants and animals. The Frances Simes Hastings Natural History Reservation was established in 1937, making it the oldest of the NRS’s 39 reserves.

After completing high school at the private Sarah Dix Hamlin School in San Francisco, Fanny followed her father’s footsteps to Stanford University. She married Thomas Church Arnold of Carmel Valley in 1935. The couple started the Idle Hour Stable in Menlo Park, which they ran until 1950 while raising five children.

The pair bought a 600 acre ranch east of Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County. Fanny and the children lived in Menlo Park during the week, and reunited with Tom at the ranch on weekends. Fanny moved to the ranch with Tom full time after all of her children had left for college in 1963. Tom Arnold died in 1969. Fanny continued her active life on the ranch, caring for a bevy of goats, cattle, chickens, peacocks, and dogs, and rode horses until the age of 85. She made the ranch accessible to the California Native Plant Society for wildflower viewing each spring and to the Audubon Society for bird counts.

Fanny took a strong interest in Hastings Reservation after the death of her mother in 1963. Though title to the ranch passed to the University of California in 1964, Fanny cultivated friendly relationships with reserve scientists, staff, and directors. Over the years, she became a stalwart benefactor of the reserve, providing funding to restore the Robertson House to its operating condition circa 1940, and to rebuild the Hastings Cabin, among improvements to other reserve buildings. A number of graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty have stayed or lived full time in the cabin over the past two decades, with Fanny’s gift making their immersion in nature and on-site research possible. Fanny also enabled the University to add adjacent lands as they came available. She also provided an annual scholarship for students working at the reserve.

Just after Fanny’s 90th birthday in 2004, she moved back to the Menlo Park house where she and her husband Tom had started their life together.

Fanny Arnold is survived by her five children: Emily Arnold of Petersham, MA; Henry Arnold of San Francisco; Jesse Arnold of Cambria; Michael (Darlene) Arnold of Reno, NV; and Sally Rench of Fremont. She is also survived by her stepdaughter Mary Mack; eight grandchildren; seven great grandchildren; one great-great grandson, and numerous descendants of her stepchildren.

As per her wishes, Fanny was cremated, and there will be no religious service. However, a memorial gathering will be held on May 3, 2014. Contact Sally Rench at or Jesse Arnold at 805-927-3096 for details.

You may honor Fanny with a contribution to the California Native Plant Society, 2707 K Street, Suite 1, Sacramento, CA 95816-5113 or to a charity of your choice.

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Fanny Arnold, death notice, SF Gate