Sandra B. Fink, a retired licensed clinical social worker who worked in hospice services, maintained a private psychotherapy practice and taught at several local universities, died of cancer Saturday at her home in the Lake Falls neighborhood of Baltimore County. She was 83.
“I was at Stella Maris for 32 years and worked with Sandra 27 of them,” said Linda Oberlin, a retired registered nurse, who spent the last four years of her career at Gilchrist Center in Towson.
“It was such an honor to work with such a special person. She had a smile that could light up a room, no matter how sad people were, and she had the knowledge that folks needed, both patient and family as they approached end of life,” Ms. Oberlin said. “She so wanted to help families with what is the most difficult moments in their lives.”
“As a person she was calm, sweet, connected and even-tempered,” said Mimi Thomas, a licensed clinical social worker who worked with Ms. Fink at Stella Maris.
The former Sandra Trumbull, daughter of Hamilton Bain, a jewelry sales representative, and Nanette Bain, a homemaker, was born in Syracuse, New York, and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, where she graduated from Hillsboro High School.
She began her undergraduate studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where she had been a member of Tri Delta sorority, and later earned a bachelor’s degree in the 1980s from what is now Towson University. She subsequently obtained a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
Ms. Fink became a licensed social worker, and in addition to working at Stella Maris Hospice, she maintained a private psychotherapy practice.
“In 1982, my mom accepted a job in the newly developed Stella Maris Hospice Care program and as their new social worker, she was also the volunteer coordinator and the bereavement coordinator,” wrote a daughter, Halle Gaut von Kessler in a biographical profile of her mother.
“She wore many hats and loved this job — it allowed her to help design and implement a new hospice program which included a home care team and a 12-bed inpatient unit. Soon after, armed with her new degree, she also started a private practice counseling families and adults in preparing for death, experiencing death, and life after loss.”
Ms. Oberlin said: “Hospice work is a calling and it’s something you’re born to do, and Sandra would agree with that. She had a bright smile and a delightful Southern accent. She was just such a bright light and had such a fun personality and was a delight to be around.”
Said Ms. Thomas: “We worked together asclinical social workers on an inpatient hospice unit for several years until she started the Center for Grief and Loss at Stella Maris. She was always extremely compassionate, sensitive, devoted and skilled with patients, family members and friends. She was also a dear friend, role model and mentor.”
Ms. von Kessler added: “Her practice and expertise were in high demand. She was asked to speak publicly often about hospice care and the needs of the dying. She enjoyed advocating for something she felt passionately about.”
Ms. Fink retired in 2010.
She continued volunteering in the library and reading to students at Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School in downtown Baltimore, and Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church Park Avenue in Bolton Hill, where she had been a longtime member, until the coronavirus pandemic.
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She and her husband, Dr. Roger Wayne Fink, a Lutheran minister and a psychologist whom she married in 1983, were active in the Samaritan Community, and for a number of years the couple had mentored a paroled convict.
Ms. Fink was an accomplished artist who enjoyed painting abstract still lifes in acrylics and gardening.
“Sandra was a wonderful entertainer and cook. She loved to cook and could make any meal special,” Ms. Oberlin said. “She loved entertaining her family and friends because she loved people.”
She added: “When I heard the news that she was ill, I couldn’t believe it. Here was a woman who loved sports, played tennis, walked and volunteered. Such a loving and giving person who will be sorely missed and was so loved by many.”
Wrote her daughter: “She is remembered for her gracious hospitality, investment in the lives of others, creative use of color as a homemaker and artist, and the Christian faith that inspired her. Serving others brought purpose, joy, and connection to Mom’s life. She served with humility. She gave without expecting anything in return. And she did this in her personal life, her church community, and in the city of Baltimore. It brought her joy and peace, and many meaningful relationships.”
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at her church at 1315 Park Ave. in Bolton Hill.
In addition to her husband of 39 years and daughter, who lives in Sparks, Ms. Fink is survived by two other daughters, Emily Gaut Little of Locust Point and Carrie Ellmore Gaut of Bolton Hill; a stepson, Mark Fink of Norfolk, Virginia; two stepdaughters, Deborah Fink Mariner of Ellicott City and Jennifer Fink Mariner of Wilmington, Delaware; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Leslie E. “Rocky” Gaut Jr. ended in divorce.