Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 7:59 am | Fair 44º


In Death as in Life, Gail Rink Brings Family and Friends Together

Hundreds gather at memorial service to share stories, pay tribute to the late Hospice of Santa Barbara executive director

Santa Barbara said goodbye to Gail Rink on Sunday, but she hasn’t really left.

Through a lifetime of personal and professional relationships, Rink touched thousands of lives in her work with Hospice of Santa Barbara before she died unexpectedly July 27 at age 66. Her lessons and compassion live on in those she’s mentored or helped.

Gabriela Dodson, clinical services director at Hospice of Santa Barbara, speaks about her 16-year friendship with the late Gail Rink, whose portrait was surrounded by flowers from family and friends at her Sunday memorial.
Gabriela Dodson, clinical services director at Hospice of Santa Barbara, speaks about her 16-year friendship with the late Gail Rink, whose portrait was surrounded by flowers from family and friends at her Sunday memorial. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

“She had a way of touching people’s hearts like they’d never been touched before,” said Dr. Stephen Hosea, an internist and infectious disease specialist who co-authored a training series with Rink called “Finding Meaning in Medicine.”

Hundreds of Rink’s friends and family members filled the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden for Sunday’s memorial service, on a sunny, clear day that she would have loved, her friends said.

Rink made hospice care part of her life for more than 30 years as a volunteer then executive director at Hospice of Santa Barbara. From counseling patients and families to finding a new location for the organization’s expansion, she always had real vision, Hosea said.

Many of her friends and colleagues who spoke Sunday first met Rink when the AIDS crisis hit the community, and she eventually won a national award for her hospice work helping patients and doctors — including Hosea — who were dealing with AIDS.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who met her while working for a local school district, said Rink could inspire total strangers to become volunteers — and often did.

More than a coworker, Rink became a mentor and friend to many, including Gabriela Dodson, Hospice’s clinical services director. Dodson spoke of Rink’s endless advice about motherhood and being a social worker, even after Rink was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and requested that Dodson become her social worker.

“We’d start off the visit with a sermon; she’d give me a sermon, or two,” she said.

At the end of those visits, Rink would share stories from her past.

Rink had a history of both following and breaking the rules — the latter of which was followed by her implanting her own, better rules in their place, Dodson said.

More than anything, Rink is remembered as tasting every part of life, and her three rules for living each day were: “Live in the present, live with shining spirituality and life as if each day is your last, with attention, love and purpose,” Dodson said.

In her words, “life is indeed good.”

David Selberg, Rink’s longtime friend and executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, spoke of their decades of friendship from living, traveling and spending so many holidays together. From tracking down the best lobster in Massachusetts to working in the garden, they had many adventures over the years, he said.

“Gail would ask me, did we do good, David?” he said. “Yes, we did most definitely. You did very, very good.”

There are hundreds of stories of Rink’s support to families dealing with death and dying, said Michael Salsbury, a past Hospice of Santa Barbara board president and one of many who had Rink on hand during a loved one’s death.

“She’s been there, lovingly handed someone over to a greater power, and stepped back,” he said. “That’s not your typical 9-to-5 job.”

Rink’s work was half done when someone passed away, because then the rebuilding and healing began, Salsbury said. She would say that you could survive the loss and your life could and would be better again, and you would believe her, he said.

But, “we never learned how to deal with loss when it’s her,” he said.

Rink is survived by her daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Rink of Bozeman, Mont.

The Gail M. Rink Miracle Fund has been established in her honor, and donations can be made by contacting Hospice of Santa Barbara at 805.563.8820.

Click here to post a memorial at Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >