Remembering Francesca Turner

Q & A with Betty Richardson, Hastings Fellow ’82, about the Tony Patiño Fellowship’s founder.

By Betty Richardson
Hastings Fellow, 1982

When you think about Francesca, what are the images or memories that come to mind?

Francesca was a presence. When she walked into a room, everyone noticed her – not only because of her exceptional beauty, but because of her regal bearing. She was very intelligent and observant. Until she determined that she liked you, she could be quite reserved. Fortunately for many of us who she personally asked to serve on the Board of Directors, we got to see the more outgoing side of Francesca.

What were Francesca’s hobbies? What were her interests, likes/dislikes, and personal convictions?

Francesca had a singular purpose – to honor the memory of her beloved son by establishing and ensuring the continued viability, of the Fellowship that she and her companion, Harry Tatelman, had created in her son’s name. She disliked people who had their own agenda with regard to the Fellowship and wanted to change it in any respect.

Francesca held opinions about politics and public figures, but she was typically circumspect about expressing them.

Recall the first time that you met and spent time with Francesca. What impression did she make on you?

The first time I met Francesca was at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in the fall of 1979, when I was one of the Finalists for the Fellowship. I was a bit taken aback because she was wearing a fur of a small animal with the head still attached and its mouth open. Her gaze was direct, but not unkind. When I introduced myself to Francesca, she responded, “I remember reading your essay.” I wasn’t sure if she remembered it favorably, or unfavorably, but I hoped it was the former. It turned out that it was.

Early meetings with Francesca were always in the context of a Fellowship event, so there was little time for one-on-one conversations. I remember she listened intently to whomever she was speaking to and that she sought out conversations with administrators and academics whose opinions she respected.

Are there lessons or advice from Francesca that you still value today?

I no doubt carry with me many lessons from Francesca, but they typically manifest themselves in the moment. The paramount lesson was, in the words of the statuette, “to be a leader of mankind in all that is honorable, just and compassionate.”

Can you describe her sense of humor?

Francesca had a marvelous laugh. She enjoyed irony and was amused when self-important people were hoisted on their own petards.

What were the things that Francesca was most proud of?

Without question, Francesca was most proud of having been Tony’s mother and having created an enduring legacy in his honor.

What were Tony’s interests and passions? How did you see Francesca cope with the emotional pain of losing him?

Tony had a very privileged upbringing, but he cared deeply about his fellow students and looked for ways to help them. Francesca said he often talked of doing so and that was the impetus for her creating the Tony Patiño Fellowship. Francesca had a very close relationship with her son and was exceedingly proud of him. She never stopped grieving Tony’s death, but she did so privately.

What were the primary influences on Francesca’s life?

As a successful model, Francesca met many celebrities and was herself a celebrity. After her marriage to Tony Patiño Sr., she travelled widely. She was on a first-name basis with the likes of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco.

What was Francesca’s “superpower”?

Francesca’s superpower was her enduring love for her son and her ability to create a powerful monument, the Tony Patiño Fellowship, in his memory.

Describe Francesca’s friendship with Harry Tatelman.

Francesca and Harry were dear, long-time friends. They could quarrel with one another, like many friends do, but their concern for each other was always manifest. Harry was as committed to the success of the Tony Patino Fellowship as was Francesca, and they worked tirelessly together to create a great legacy. Harry had a friendly, informal manner and would often call Fellows and Fellows-Elect just to check in and ask how we were doing. Occasionally, he tried to play matchmaker among the Fellows. I don’t recall that he had any success in that department. He treated many of us like we were his children.

How did Francesca engage with Fellows and Fellows-Elect?

Francesca was the heart and soul of the Fellowship. She not only envisioned it; she willed it into being. She was painstaking in choosing the precise words that are set forth in the Fellowship Agreement. She carefully monitored all aspects of the Fellowship and was particularly mindful of the relationships the Board of Directors had with each of the three law schools at which the Fellowship had been established. There is no aspect of the Fellowship with which Francesca was not personally involved.