Barbara Gay Rinehart Kearl
A woman of many talents, quiet sparkle, quick wit and a big heart, Barbara Gay Kearl died Monday evening, March 26 in Santa Barbara California. It is hoped by her five children—who loved her dearly—that she is dancing with her parents and grand parents. Barbara, it turns out, was a wonderful dancer who moved with understated grace, style, and subtle mischief on the dance floor. At the time of her death, she had been in declining health, having endured the cruelties of Alzheimer’s the last few years of her life. She was 85.
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 Bringham Young University in Provo Utah. City. It was while a student at BYU that she met James Russell Kearl, who she would marry in 1957. Barbara had been good friends in Denver with one of JIm’s cousins. When she moved to Utah, they shared a basement apartment in Jim’s mother’s house. Jim lived there too. That’s how they met. Barbara was pretty and serious. Jim was dashing and driven. After a courtship of almost a year, the two were married. Jim and Barbara had been married 61 years at the time of her death.
After their wedding, the young couple 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.)
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 Executive Administrator of Personnel for over 20 years, a blend of competence, compassion and good humor. In 1991, Barbara retired to return to Utah with Jim to care for her elderly mother.
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.
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 those rare instances 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. An accomplished pianist she played beautifully on her baby grand; for a short time, was the organist at her church. 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. Likewise for the blankets she so famously knit. An exceptional seamstress, Barbara made 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 was a good cook, too, but with her family’s Utah ranching roots—both her parents’ families came from Utah– Barbara had a taste for certain dishes her children would never acquire: beef tongue, the Pope’s nose, and Pan Haus most notably.
Barbara and Jim were both infused with powerful worth ethics. But hard work alone was not sufficient to keep certain life challenges at bay. In 1964, Jim sustained a serious head injury during a car crash caused by a faulty light signal. Barbara was warned her husband may not be the same when he returned from the hospital. In the years afterward, 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, Barb 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 Rinhart, who passed away in 2001.
Though raised in the Church of the Latter Day saints, 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 Kearl is survived by her husband Jim, her five children, 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and her two brothers, Martin and Robert Rinehart. When she passed, her daughter Jennie was the her bedside with her. No service is planned. Her remains will be buried in Brigham City Utah. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your favorite charity.