Darell Farnbach, Vail Ranch Headquarters restoration champion, passes at age 80

Darell Farnbach, a proud resident of Temecula who, with his wife Rebecca was instrumental in the restoration of Vail Headquarters, passed away today, March 14, 2023.

Darell Farnbach was a fourth-generation Californian who lived in the mountains, in the desert, and in the city in this state. He experienced life in California from as far south as Temecula and to near the northern border in Alturas.

The story of Darell Joe Farnbach begins when the two men who would become his grandfathers began working on the Red Line in Los Angeles in the early 1900s. Albert Cash, who was a New Englander from Nantucket Island and worked as a motorman on the Red Line, began to homestead some land in the San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood, California in 1916 but found it was too much work for him. He offered to split the land with his coworker Joe Farnbach, a first-generation German born in America who was a conductor on the Red Line if he would help him with the mandatory improvements on the homestead.

The teamwork made the two families grow close. After their children Alberta Cash and Gerald Farnbach met as children, their friendship grew into love. Gerald and Alberta attended Life Bible College in Los Angeles, founded by the famous female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. They were joined in marriage in 1929 in a double wedding ceremony performed by McPherson.

Three children were born to Gerald and Alberta, with Darell coming last at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles on April 14, 1942. For a while, the family lived in Los Angeles and then they moved to the family homestead, the rustic Wrightwood Lazy B-J-F Ranch.

After a while, the Farnbachs’ marriage dissolved and Darell went to live with his father, stepmother, and stepsiblings Sheila and David Brooks in Ukiah, California where they soon welcomed Darell’s baby brother Bob. Later, Darell lived with his Grandmother and Grandfather Farnbach in Auburn, California.

Darell wanted to live with his mother, and after some persuasion, he got his way. He lived with her on the Lockhart Ranch near Barstow, where she was a cook. His mother eventually married a cowboy named Cliff Johnson who gave Darell an extended family with aunts and uncles and cousins.

Darell moved with Cliff and Alberta to Kelsey, in the Placerville area, where Cliff worked for the Forest Service. Some of their adventures in Kelsey included building a cabin and an outhouse, interacting with odd neighbors, and attending a two-room school where Darell was valedictorian of a class of three students.

After ­­a few years, the family moved to Alturas on Highway 395 at the Oregon border and then before Darell’s senior year of high school they moved to Monrovia where Darell graduated in 1960.

Having an income was always important to Darell. Trying to earn some spending money, Darell bought 100 baby chicks when he was twelve years old. He raised them and sold them dressed and afterward did not ever want to raise chickens again.

Darell always loved cars. He started driving when he was about six years old. He drove a Model A to the end of their long country lane where he and his brother and sister caught the school bus. Darell would stand on the seat to steer while his brother worked the pedals. Also, as a child, he would drive across the desert while his stepdad and uncle lay on the running boards shooting rabbits.

Darell’s first job was washing cars for an auto sales agency. He remembers the thrill of driving the cars that he washed. In Monrovia, he worked in a convalescent hospital, a pharmacy, and a gas station. He considered going into mortuary science but decided instead to attend beauty college.

He excelled as a hairstylist and earned credentials to teach at the beauty school. It was there that he met his first wife, Ramona Rubio. They married in 1965. Darell was drafted into the Army in 1966 and was a battery clerk stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, where their daughter Darya was born. After returning to California, Darell purchased a salon in Arcadia and his son Todd was born in 1971.

In 1981 the family moved to Temecula where Darell and Ramona formed the Farnbach Aldstadt Design Company with another couple from the Arcadia area. They did commercial and residential interior design in the fast-growing area, while Darell continued traveling to Arcadia every other week to work in his salon.

Darell also collected and restored antiques and had an antique store inside the Temecula Mercantile building.

When Darell’s and Ramona’s marriage ended, an Arcadia hair client introduced Darell to Rebecca. They married seven months later and Darell persuaded Rebecca to move to Temecula. Darell helped her to raise her teenage children Andrew and Abigail Marshall.

Anyone who knew Darell knows he loved cars. Until recently he had a Model A pickup, a Model T roadster, a 1938 Cadillac LaSalle, and 1970 and 1972 Ford Mustang convertibles. Before he moved to Temecula, he owned two of his favorite cars, a Packard convertible and a Mercedes convertible. His salon in Temecula “The Pink Caddy” featured the front clip of a 1969 Fleetwood Cadillac as the reception desk. He owned about 70 cars during his lifetime.

Through the years Darell became a close friend to others who enjoyed classic cars, most notably the Drifters Car Club members. A high point in Darell’s life was going with some of the Drifters to drive exotic cars onto the auction block for Mecum Auto Auctions. In 2019 Darell’s red 1972 Mustang Convertible was featured in Mustang Monthly magazine.

When Darell and Rebecca became empty nesters, they began to advocate for the Vail Headquarters historic site that was threatened with demolition. Darell was a plaintiff in the suit that settled favorably. Darell spent many hours each week overseeing the restoration, as well as setting up a small museum called the Little Temecula History Center with others in the Vail Ranch Restoration Association.

Darell’s faith in God was a guiding force in his life. When Darell was about six years old, he responded to an altar call at a Nazarene Church he attended with his Grandma Farnbach. His heart and behavior were changed after he asked Jesus to come into his life and he never forgot what a difference knowing Christ made in him. Darell specified that old hymns including The Old Rugged Cross be sung at his memorial gathering.

The Temecula Chamber of Commerce named the Farnbachs the 2019 Citizen of the Year and in 2021 their names were placed on the Wall of Honor in the Temecula City Hall.

Darell passed away at home on March 14 at in Temecula, California after a long illness. His brother Garry Farnbach preceded him in death. Darell is survived by his wife Rebecca, sister Donna Reese of Bishop, California, brother Robert Farnbach of Ukiah, California, and stepsiblings Sheila Brooks of Ukiah, California, and David Brooks of Sacramento, California. He leaves children Todd of Medford, Oregon, Darya of Fairhaven, Vermont, and their spouses, stepson Andrew Marshall of Temecula, California, stepdaughter Abigail Juarez and her husband of Wildomar, California, grandchildren Terran and Taj Farnbach, and Natalia Kartaszynska, five step-grandchildren, and many nephews and nieces.

Darell loved Temecula and was proud to have been part of the restoration of Vail Headquarters, but he said his best legacy was his children, which included his stepchildren and grandchildren. He was loved by many in the community and will be long remembered, especially by the third-grade students who took bumpy rides in Darell’s Model A at Vail Headquarters during field trips.