Longtime member of the Santa Barbara arts and tennis communities Gene Bennett Sinser, 85, died Dec. 2 of natural causes at his home in Solvang.
A celebration of his life will be held on Jan. 19 at the family home in Solvang.
Born in Mannheim, Germany, his youth was changed by WWII, when he and his family were refugees, bombed out of their home and interned for two years. They were often separated from his mother, who was Jewish. The family was relocated and detained in France for being German. Sinser immigrated to the United States. from Germany in 1953. He taught himself English and became a U.S. citizen.
He and his first wife of 27 years, Ingrid, had two children, Steven and Sabrina. He married Patty DeDominic in 1986 and became devoted stepfather to her three sons. After a successful career in the food service industry, first at Continental Coffee Co. in New York and later at S.E. Rykoff & Co. in Los Angeles, Sinser focused on his love of art.
He opened a gallery and custom framing service in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. The Gene Sinser Gallery specialized in sports and entertainment memorabilia
as well local artists and fine art. Gene served 30 years as an arbitrator for the L.A. & Santa Barbara County Bar Associations.
The Sinsers have five grandchildren and became a host family for international students through Youth for Understanding and English First. They hosted more than 25 high school and college students for up to a year. Most became extended family.
The Sinsers moved to Montecito in 1996, where he turned his attention to business coaching and to philanthropic pursuits. He supported small business owners through SCORE,
part of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He and his wife have coached entrepreneurs through Maui Mastermind.
Sinser served as a board member and treasurer of the Santa Barbara Arts Fund and as a board member of the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, before serving as a board member for the Wilding Museum in Solvang. He recently joined the Vikings and Rotary and was a passionate board member for the Santa Barbara Symphony, helping to rebuild of the Granada Theatre and restore the Chromatic Gate, Santa Barbara’s iconic rainbow on Cabrillo Boulevard.
Sinser took his citizenship seriously, proudly serving three sessions on the Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury. He was also elected in 2012 to the Montecito Fire Protection Board where he served until 2016.
He had a passion for tennis, a sport he took up upon arriving to the United States. He played throughout his life, notably with his friends in the “Montecito Tennis Mafia.” He was a certified U.S. Tennis Associationtion umpire and served as an athlete ambassador and volunteer coordinator for the 1984 Olympics.
Through his work in the food service industry and extensive travels with his wife, the Sinsers explored and indulged his passion for food, wine and single malt. Dinner parties and family meals at the couple’s home in Montecito were treasured events for family and friends. He and his wife loved to cook with Julia Child, “Wyatt Earp” Hugh O’Brian, neighbor John Cleese and traveled to Africa with Dr. Jane Goodall.
Sinser is survived by his wife as well as his daughter, Sabrina Burton, his cousins Bernie and Sy Rubin, daughter-in-law Beth Sinser Buttles, Patty’s sons Eric (wife Mary) Chris and Nik DeDominic (wife Janna), his granddaughter, Christina DeDominic, his grandsons Corey and Quinn Sinser, Christopher DeDominic Jr. and Wesley Burton.
Sinser had a wit, a tongue and a life philosophy, learned as a Holocaust survivor and a sales manager. “See the people today, not tomorrow,” he said “Speak and live your truth and stand up against injustice.”
He and his spouse encouraged everyone to cherish relationships.