San Diego County
Mrs. Belle J.
Benchley, manager and executive secretary of the San Diego Zoological Gardens
since 1927, enjoys the unique distinction of being perhaps the only woman to
occupy a position of this character. She
was but three years of age when her parents, Fred M. and Ida B. (Orrell) Jennings, removed westward from Kansas to San
Diego, California, where her mother still makes her home and is enjoying
excellent health. Her father, Fred M.
passed away in 1928, long figured prominently in public affairs and made a
splendid record as county sheriff of San Diego county, as did also her brother,
Frank S. Jennings. Mr. and Mrs. Fred M.
Jennings were the parents of eight children, seven of whom survive and four of
whom reside in San Diego.
Mrs. Benchley is
a graduate of the San Diego high school and the San Diego Teachers College and
also attended the University of California during a summer session. She followed the profession of teaching in
Orange County for a number of years prior to 1925, when she became identified
with the San Diego Zoological Gardens in the capacity of bookkeeper and two
years later assumed her present responsible duties as manager and executive
secretary. She has made a comprehensive
study of the various birds, reptiles and animals in the zoo, numbering about
two thousand, three hundred and eighty-five specimens. The head of this wonderful institution is the
well known Dr. Wegeforth, under whose capable
leadership the San Diego Zoological Gardens, embracing one hundred and sixty acres, have become recognized as among the finest in the
world. Two busses are used daily to
transport elementary and high schools pupils who visit the zoo for nature
study. The gardens are maintained for
scientific and educational purposes rather than as a circus-like
exhibition. Mrs. Benchley has become
widely known for her most interesting talks to the various clubs and
organizations which have sought her services as a lecturer. She is a member of the San Diego Athletic
Club and the Altrusa Club and has served as a
president of the latter.
Mrs. Benchley is
the mother of a son, Edward J. Benchley, a journalist living in Los Angeles,
who married Miss Della Sanchez, representative of one of the California’s
honored pioneer families.
by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South
Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 267-268,
Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V.