Gene Bennett Sinser, longtime member of the Santa Barbara arts and tennis communities died Sunday December 2nd of natural causes at his home in Solvang. He was 85.

Born in Mannheim, Germany, his youth was punctuated by WWII, during which he and his family were refugees, bombed out of their home and interned for two years, often separated from his mother, who was Jewish.  The family was relocated and detained in France for being German. Gene immigrated to the U.S.  from Germany in 1953, taught himself English and became an American 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. 

Gene Bennett Sinser

Gene Bennett Sinser

After a long and successful career in the foodservice industry, first at Continental Coffee Co. in New York and later at S.E. Rykoff & Co. in Los Angeles, Gene focused on his love of art, opening a popular gallery and custom framing service.  Located 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 5 grandchildren and became a host family for international students via Youth for Understanding and EF. They hosted over 25 high school and college students for up to a year and most became extended family. 

Gene and Patty moved to Montecito in 1996, where Gene turned his attention to business coaching and to philanthropic pursuits.  Gene supported small business owners through SCORE (part of the US Small Business Administration) and he and Patty have coached entrepreneurs through Maui Mastermind.  Gene 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).  

Gene 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. 

Gene was passionate about tennis, a sport he took up upon arriving to the U.S.  and played joyfully throughout his life, most notably with his friends in the “Montecito Tennis Mafia.”  He was a certified USTA 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 Patty, Gene explored and indulged his passion for food, wine and single malt.  Dinner parties and family meals at Patty and Gene’s in Montecito were treasured events for family and friends, who will especially miss Gene’s exceptional hospitality and culinary skills. He and Patty loved to cook with Julia Child, “Wyatt Earp” Hugh O’Brian, neighbor John Cleese and traveled to Africa with Dr. Jane Goodall.  His was a life well lived that tasted the joys and cuisine in over 50 countries.

Since 1984, when they met, Gene’s greatest love was his wife Patty, with whom he traveled the world and with whom he was smitten for 34 years.  Gene is survived by Patty, as well as his daughter, Sabrina Burton, daughter-in-law Beth Sinser Buttles, Patty’s sons Eric (wife Mary) Chris and Nik DeDominic (wife Janna), his beautiful granddaughter, Christina DeDominic, his remarkable grandsons Corey & Quinn Sinser, Christopher DeDominic Jr. and Wesley Burton.   

Gene had a wit, a tongue and a life philosophy, learned as a Holocaust survivor and a sales manager.  See the people today, not tomorrow.  Speak and live your truth and stand up against injustice.  He and Patty encouraged everyone to cherish relationships and never take freedom or people for granted.   Call your parents, call your loved ones, send them flowers now, while they can enjoy them, and you can cherish moments together.

 A celebration of Gene’s life will be held on January 19, 2019 at the family home in Solvang.   

If you wish to support a cause that was close to Gene, consider support for the Santa Barbara Symphony or the wonderful services provided to children swept up in the flood of poverty who need help in foster care. does this nationwide