Farren Wade Stanberry, age 18, went missing from San Francisco, California in May or June of 1980.
Farren was originally from Oregon, and was raised by his aunt and grandmother. In 1979, he decided that he wanted to venture out and explore the world, so he packed a bag and boarded a Greyhound bus headed for the east coast. As he traveled, he kept his grandmother informed of his whereabouts, and he did so for the last time in May or June of 1980. He called his grandmother from San Francisco, California. He said he was happy there, living with a group of young men in a hotel. He had lost his job, however, and needed money. In fact, he had also spoken to his biological mother about sending him some of his money on the same day he last spoke to his grandmother. His mother had refused to send him any money.
After his family did not hear from him again in the next few weeks, they called the San Francisco hotel where he had been staying, and were told that Farren had left abruptly, without paying his bill, and leaving his belongings behind.
Online resources state that Farren was staying at the International Hotel. The International Hotel was a residential hotel at the intersection of Jackson and Kearney, in an area known as Manilatown. In looking up the International Hotel, however, I learned that it was non-operational in 1980. It was the subject of much dispute between the Filipino population, who called it home, and the city officials, who had planned a revitalization of the area. The last of its tenants were evicted in late 1977, and it remained vacant until it was demolished in 1981.
I did a search in the California Unclaimed Property Database, and found that Farren has a small amount of money from a bank account listed there. His address on that record was 1139 Market Street, Apt 218. Coincidentally, this address corresponded to the National Hotel (now a Budget Inn), which was also a residential hotel.
I’m thinking the hotel in question was National, and not International.
Farren’s uncle was able to determine, after contacting the hotel where Farren was last seen, that he had been visiting a gay man there. The man later died of AIDS. Whether Farren himself was gay is unknown. This fact has me confused. Did he actually live in the hotel with a group of young men, but visit a gay man in a different room? Was the gay man one of the group of young men? Or was there no group of young men, but just a gay man, and a confused Farren who, in those times, was not prepared to admit he was gay?
Farren’s uncle has been tirelessly pursuing the case of his missing nephew for all these years, and has not come any closer to a resolution. He has learned that Farren’s missing persons report, which was filed in his hometown of John Day, Oregon, never made it to the San Francisco authorities, and they were unaware that he had gone missing in their city. Searches through death indexes, permit and license records, and databases have turned up no sign of Farren. Instead, according to Farren’s grandmother, “The people in the justice department in California are telling us now they don’t think there’s any way we’ll ever find him.” Farren’s uncle traveled to the California Bureau of Identification, the state authority on identifying remains, but was told that nobody matching his description had come through there.
So, I did a little digging on NamUs myself. I found a few that looked possible.
This man was located on May 30, 1980, in the San Francisco Bay near Pier 3 1/2. There isn’t a photo to compare, and the age and height are off slightly, but the timing is right on, depending on the exact date of his last phone call. He was wearing a brown down jacket, a t-shirt, and brown Nike shoes. His hair was shaved, except for one patch. He may have been using drugs recently.
This one is less likely, but I thought it was worth mentioning, since it contains a clue that would be recognizable to anyone who was acquainted with Farren during his time in San Francisco. This set of remains was located in 1981, and it appears the death was recent. He was found on the grounds of another San Francisco hotel. The NamUs profile states the Grand Hotel at 735 Bush St, although I believe it may actually be the Grant Hotel at 753 Bush St. (Some online sources state Grant Hotel, 735 Bush St as well.) His wallet and personal effects were found in a hotel room, and the remains were found on the concrete below the room’s window. There was no identification found in the wallet – which jumped out at me, since Farren had left his belongings behind at the National Hotel in 1980, Farren likely would not have his identification, either. The hotel did state that the room had been reserved under the name Eric Winston. I thought this name might possibly be familiar to Farren’s family as one of the men he was staying with? There is a good chance, of course, that the deceased person WAS Eric Winston, but he could also have been an acquaintance of Eric’s… if Eric was a real name. The height is also an exact match to Farren, but again, the age is off by a year or two.
This, in my opinion, is the most likely of the three I’ve found. This man was located in 1984, and the body was believed to have been there for a long time. He was found in an attic at 1144 Market Street – right across the street from 1139 Market Street, which is the address for Farren listed in the Unclaimed Property Database. It appears that 1144 Market Street is an office building, which has housed many businesses over the years. In this case, the age matches, but the height is off by a couple inches.
What I didn’t find in NamUs, however, is any information on Farren Stanberry. I don’t know if a family member’s DNA has been submitted to the national database for comparison. If not, I do hope the family can get a sample entered, so that ‘possible matches’ can be submitted.
I truly hope this was a case of a young man struggling with his sexuality in a time when such things were not always accepted. I hope he decided to go under the radar and just make a new life for himself, gravitating to residential hotels, which offered privacy from the outside world.
I hope he will someday search his own name online, and see that his loved ones want nothing more than to know what happened to him, they are not angry, and they are concerned for his well-being.
I hope someone who remembers him from San Francisco will contact the John Day, Oregon Police Department with any information, at 541-575-0030.