A woman of many talents, quiet sparkle, quick wit and a big heart, Barbara Gay Rinehart Kearl died Monday evening, March 26, 2018 in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 85. Her daughter Jennie was able to be at her bedside when she passed and her five children—who love her dearly—believe that she is reunited with her beloved parents and grandparents. At the time of her death, she had been in declining health, having endured the cruelties of Alzheimer’s dementia the last few years of her life.
Barbara was born October 2, 1932 in Denver, Colorado to Evalee Pauline Fife and Harold Lee Rinehart, an avid outdoorsman and hardware store owner. One of three children—the middle child--Barbara attended college first in Boulder Colorado and later at Brigham Young University. While living in Utah, she met James Russell Kearl, whom she would later marry. Barbara had been good friends in Denver with one of Jim's cousins, Glenna Wright. When she moved to Utah, they shared a basement apartment in Jim's mother's house in Salt Lake City. That’s how she and Jim first met. Barbara was pretty and serious. Jim was dashing and driven. After a courtship that lasted almost a year, the two were married on March 16, 1957 in her parents’ home in Denver. Jim and Barbara had been married 61 years at the time of Barbara’s death.
After their wedding, the young coupled moved to Southern California, where Jim first worked as an engineer and designer with the aerospace industry. Five children soon followed: Kurt Kearl (Melissa) Evaly Poole (Mitch) Jennie Welsh (Nick) Jon Kearl (Jane) and Jason Kearl (Tami.) They in turn produced 14 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
After spending many years as a homemaker caring for her kids - her first priority – the economic downturn of the early 1970's spurred Barbara to take a job at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. There she worked as an executive secretary for various administrators. She made several lifelong friends amongst her co-workers there. In her work she exhibited a blend of competence, compassion and good humor.
Barbara is remembered by her children as a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend, and a big loving heart. Though shrewdly perceptive, Barbara was loathe to judge. Instead, she listened; she encouraged; she accepted. She delighted in her children’s unique and often headstrong personalities. She celebrated their successes, was amused by their antics, and offered a port for their storms. Barbara’s was an easy and comforting presence. She laughed easily even when life was anything but easy.
She was fun to be with. She made the mundane enjoyable. And she was a good sport, forever exclaiming, “Oh my heavens,” or “Oh my criminy” when her kids pulled her leg. In the rare instances that Barbara got seriously upset, she would exclaim, ”What in the Sam Hill are you doing!?” And when things didn't go the way she would have liked her refrain was always, "Such is life!" In some ways Barbara was very lucky. She not only loved her children, but she liked them too. They were luckier still; they knew it.
Barbara loved music of all kinds: Louis Armstrong, Bennie Goodman, Boots Randolph, John Prine, John Denver and Neil Young are just a few of her favorite artists. Barbara was a wonderful dancer who moved with understated grace, style, and subtle mischief on the dance floor. An accomplished pianist, she played beautifully on her grand piano and was the organist for her church congregation. She sang with a small and beautiful voice. Later in life, she tried her hand at a guitar that proved too big for her hands. As a maker of quilts, Barbara was phenomenal, producing a steady stream of epic masterpieces, each marking the arrival of a new grandchild. These remain treasured by all as well as the baby blankets and afghans she crocheted. She was an exceptional seamstress as well, making all of her daughters' clothes when they were young and later, dresses custom designed by her daughter and even suits for some of her sons.
Barbara was a voracious reader; she enjoyed American literature and historical biographies. She also enjoyed a good game of cards and the playful banter that accompanied it. She was constantly teasing out crossword puzzles. Her hands were always busy. She learned to be a good cook from her mother, but she had a taste for certain dishes her children would never like, most notably beef tongue, the Pope’s nose, and Pan Haus.
Barbara and Jim were both infused with powerful work ethics. But hard work alone was not sufficient to keep certain of life’s challenges at bay. In 1964, Jim sustained a serious head injury during a car crash caused by a faulty light signal. In the years after the accident, Barbara worked full time, maintained the household, and kept the family on an emotional even keel. Where others might be inclined to lose their cool, Barbara maintained hers.
Southern California never truly felt like home to Barbara and Jim. Barbara always took comfort in the sweeping embrace of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. She loved the blue skies, the big white clouds, and the change of colors that came with Fall. In 1991, the couple moved back to Utah first to look after Jim’s mother Jennie Kearl, then dying of cancer, and later to care for Barbara’s mother, Evalee Rinehart, who passed away in 2001. Jim and Barbara recently moved from Salt Lake City to Santa Barbara to be closer to her daughter Jennie and her family.
Although raised as a member of the LDS Church, Barbara’s spiritual life was not confined to the teachings of any one faith. Instead, Barbara hewed closely to the Golden Rule. She did unto others, always striving to be of service. Kindness was her moral touchstone. It was something she never preached, but—and to an uncommon extent—put into practice.
Barbara is survived by her husband Jim, her five children, 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and her two brothers, Martin (Bonnie) and Robert Rinehart. At this time, no service is planned. Her remains will be interred in Brigham City, Utah. In lieu of flowers, please donate in her name to your favorite charity.