Barbara Sonia Adams, aka Madame Rosinka: 1947-2014

Barbara Sonia Adams
Courtesy Photo

In 1970, while attending UCSB, I wandered into Madame Sonia Rosinka’s tiny Pine Avenue office in Goleta for a first palm reading, not knowing what to expect but somehow drawn to the idea of having a reading by an authentic Gypsy. This decision led up to a lifelong friendship with Barbara Sonia Adams, my best of friends. We were together through life’s ups and downs from then on.

We found we were both from equally prominent families in our respective cultures — me coming from a well-known newspaper family in Los Angeles, Sonia born in San Francisco of Yugoslavian-Gypsy descent and of the most royal class in their culture, the “Machwanka.” Sonia liked to joke about us being the “Gypsy and the Debutante.” An odd pair of buddies at that!

Helping Sonia raise sons George and Charlie at her office-home at Fairview and Hollister, I was constantly amazed at what a fantastic mother she was, always showing the correct amount of love and discipline. As well as being a dedicated mother, she was a devoted daughter to her parents, Charles and Rachel (Madame Mary Rosinka) Adams, who were well liked and respected in Santa Barbara for their warm generosity.

Their magical little lighthouse shop on Stearns Wharf, known as “Madame Rosinka” since 1951, became a landmark, a beacon of hope and good wishes, known internationally. Many, many thousands of prominent professionals, celebrities, tourists, and locals alike walked through the door, only to leave troubles behind and emerge with a renewed sense of direction and purpose in life.

Sonia had the ability to bring light out of darkness and despair, and she didn’t do it alone. Her wisdom came out of a profound faith in God. “If there’s a way in, there’s a way out! All things are possible with God and a positive attitude,” she would say. Both a “realistic optimist” and inspirational, she always had the right solution to situations, no matter how complex or impossible they seemed. Her logical manner, combined with her natural brilliance, gave people confidence. She made many people’s dreams come true by helping them believe in themselves; her positive attitude was contagious.

I myself would not be here today had it not been for Sonia’s incredible love, devotion, and prayers to help me walk after a bad accident, despite the predictions of the doctors otherwise, and to beat breast cancer, among many other obstacles.

It was the ability to “live in the present,” she emphasized, that enabled people to create their future and their history. Conversely, she believed that regret equals bad luck and keeps us in the past. When it came to good fortune, Sonia said it was brought about by good timing, or “God-Timing.” By that she meant we can thank God for all we have already and ask Him for forgiveness when we forget. She practiced this, too, saying “life was her religion,” based on the laws of the Ten Commandments. And she took it seriously, loving to study and take apart both the Bible and the dictionary.

In addition to being called “Madame Rosinka” by so many, Sonia’s friends affectionately called her “Betty” or “Boop,” as she loved and identified with the adorable feminine cartoon character. She had an innocence that was almost childlike and a strong sense of morals and humble graciousness that were mixed with such a sense of humor. She was the only person in my life to truly make me laugh. Yet she could be as subtly sarcastic as they come when it came to making a point to those who insulted her intelligence. As soft-spoken and charming as she was, she also had a temper not to be reckoned with when it came to upholding justice. Absolutely no one could get away with lying to her, and she could sense it coming if they tried!

Among her myriad talents, her love of cooking led her to buy and renovate the Chase restaurant on State Street, sharing her special dishes and creating a warm, welcoming ambience for her guests. I never had better food in my whole life than hers.

Sonia also had an eye for great properties to transform, and her sense of interior design made many a refurbished property shine. Her crowning achievement was creating the Divine Inspiration Gallery of Fine Art near State and Arrellaga, a charming “jewelry box” containing gems of local art. A talented watercolorist herself, working in the style of Chagall and Miró, Sonia wanted her gallery to offer artists their first recognition and representation, another of her ways to help others.

Just as her parents were known to be enthusiastic volunteers for fundraising events and festivals, Sonia also selflessly donated time and money to local charities and organizations. She held many dear, especially the Children’s Miracle Network, the Lung Association, Heart Association, and Unity Shoppe, just to name a few.

Believing that “The Weather, Love, and Death are the Destiny of God,” Sonia passed away on September 19, 2014, “wishing the world well” and with much love, indeed!

Sherry Spear is the owner of the Divine Inspiration Gallery.


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