Brenda and Tony came to Santa Barbara when they retired, he from being a chemist working at Rocketdyne and she from working as a medical laboratory and nuclear medicine technician at various labs and hospitals, most recently at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks. The Spinellas were married 25 years ago. Since then, they’ve shared a great love of laughter, rugby, photography – and Sansum Clinic!
Their stories illustrate their commitment to helping their community and leaving a lasting legacy for the future.
Prior to moving here, the Spinellas “did their homework” as they considered where to go for their healthcare. “I did a lot of research,” said Brenda. “I wanted to go to a place that offered comprehensive services and had a sterling reputation for high quality medical care. It was very important to us to find doctors who would treat us as whole people, doctors we could trust and with whom we’d feel comfortable. I found everything we were looking for at Sansum Clinic.”
Tony hails from an Italian/Sicilian family in Rhode Island. His father was a laborer and his mother was forced to leave school when she was only 16 due to the Depression. Nevertheless, Tony’s parents emphasized the importance of education for their children. “My mother was very smart and both she and my father managed to live well, although they were frugal and they always saved. Those were important lessons for me as I grew up and let me tell you, “My mother could squeeze a penny out of a rock!” he said proudly.
“I remember working with my dad during the summers when it was very hot. It was hard work and some of the laborers would say, ‘Listen, you don’t want to do this for the rest of your life – so go to school!’” Tony went on to junior college and then signed up for military service. After a battery of tests, he ended up working at a base in Tacoma, WA. He was almost sent to Greenland instead of British Columbia where his friend told him, “You’ll find a girl behind every tree!” Of course, there were no trees growing in Greenland. After his tour in BC, he went to Denver University on the GI Bill, received a BS degree in Chemistry, and eventually went to work for Santa Barbara
Research (SBRC). While at SBRC, he also went to USC night school and received his MS degree in Systems Management. When he got off the plane in Santa Barbara, a beautiful rainbow welcomed him and he thought, “I’ve landed in the right place!” When that job ended, Tony had to move away to work for Rocketdyne. However, he always wanted to return to Santa Barbara. “It was lucky he moved away,” said Brenda, “Because otherwise, he wouldn’t have met me!”
Like Tony, Brenda is of Italian extraction. She grew up on Long Island and her New York accent is still very much with her. She’s an enthusiastic person with an infectious laugh. She worked in the medical field as a licensed nuclear medical technologist (in New York) and a chemical medical technician for her entire professional career. Brenda also developed a love for photography and some of her beautiful pictures are on display in their home.
Brenda was honored by the Peace Officers Association of Ventura for her bravery when she saved an elderly man’s life by pulling him out of his car after a bad accident. Besides her heroism, Brenda shares a love of rugby with Tony. We laughed over the quotation that says, “Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans. On the other hand, rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen!” Tony played rugby in college and he coached the team at UCSB in the 1980s. He now serves as the vice president of the local youth rugby club – “I was bamboozled into doing it,” he chuckled. The two of them laughed heartily.
These are just a few of the stories about Tony and Brenda Spinella. They’re very important to us because they’ve included Sansum Clinic in their will. However, they said that they’re not wealthy people but they very much want to make a difference in our community. Their gift will, indeed, make a difference and we deeply appreciate their generosity.