Our hearts are heavy with the passing of longtime Board of Directors member and dear friend, Allen Hackett. He was instrumental in building River Partners into a statewide leader for bringing life back to California’s rivers and communities. His astute judgement and even-keeled personality will be greatly missed. Following kidney failure, he passed peacefully at home with his family in January.
Allen Lawrence Hackett was born April 22, 1940 at Enloe Hospital in Chico, California. Allen attended grammar and high schools in Chico, served in the U.S. Navy, and returned home to attend Chico State where he graduated in 1964. He went on to complete his Master’s in Agricultural Economics at UC Davis in 1996.
Allen spent his career in agricultural banking. He eventually retired from his position as Vice President from Gold County Bank in Yuba City. He and his wife Nancy returned to Chico in 1990, purchasing property to farm walnuts. Allen said it was his retirement plan and this investment, Nutcracker Farm, became their family’s labor of love.
One of his proudest accomplishments came later in his life when he became a member of the River Partners Board of Directors, which he served on from 2002 until he stepped down December of 2021 due to health concerns.
He brought his incredible financial and analytical brain to River Partners’ Board. He challenged and guided River Partners to develop solid finances that are foundational to our success as an organization.
“The advice and contributions he made to the Board were immense,” recalled Monroe Sprague, Chairman of River Partners’ Board of Directors. “He was a beautiful combination of financial, banking and business knowledge, meshed with his own personal experience of having a walnut orchard. This enabled him to lend important perspectives and give great financial leadership regarding River Partners. We were mostly farmers; we weren’t financial people. He was a farmer and a banker.”
Hackett’s contributions as a River Partners Board Member kept the organization on level footing, even during tough times. “The state stopped paying us for four months because they couldn’t decide on a budget,” Sprague added. “They all just expected us to be there after four months when they decided on a budget. Allen led us through those tough times.”
River Partners President, Julie Rentner shared, “I remember fondly both Allen’s analytical mind—he could digest and synthesize financial information better than all of us, and his personality! Allen was always so calm, happy, and astute. He never missed a meeting and was always very prepared with the right questions and excellent judgement. We will miss Allen so much and have Allen to thank for a tremendous financial foundation here at River Partners.”
Even as his age progressed, Allen always participated in field trips with River Partners, and remained curious and interested in the on-the-ground performance of restoration projects and how the organization was doing. He even went on the river and canoe trips!
“He loved it. Never say, ‘I’m too old’. Never say, ‘I’m gonna stay home.’ It was great to have him at your back, or in the same canoe with you,” Sprague reflected.
Allen’s daughter, Karen Villalobos, shared that he had found his niche at River Partners. “In retirement, you wonder, ‘What am I going to do to be meaningful and purposeful?’ Being on the Board of Directors gave him that outlet. He had passions in different places, but it was over a decade he was in service on the Board. One of the last checks he wanted me to write was to River Partners. He never wanted recognition; he was just so proud of the work that had been done.”
“It was neat to see him become more of an environmentalist and be more thoughtful about our waterways and what was happening with them. I didn’t see that side of him for many years. His generation wasn’t always advocating for that, and I’m proud of him for that. I hope I can get more involved and keep his legacy going.”
Shortly before his passing, he was given a jacket with an embroidered River Partners logo. He proceeded to wear the jacket to every radiation appointment in December. “He was immensely proud of the organization and the work they did,” Villalobos said. “When he believed in something, he just wanted to honor it.”
Allen is survived by his two children David Hackett (Daphne) of Menlo Park and Karen Villalobos (Jerrod) of Yuba City, four grandchildren (J.T., Ava, Lily, and Mia) and his significant other, Elisabeth Stewart.