by Lynda Myers and Katie Fairbairn
Originally a farm girl from Palisade, Nebraska, LaRue Kobrin arrived in Fort Bragg with her husband and life partner, Frank Bender in 1974. Although she held a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado, Kobrin did not have any academic aspirations at that time, according to her longtime friend, Deborah White. Instead, White said, “She became the manager of Captain Flint's fish and chips restaurant, 'an institution' on the Coast. LaRue was perfectly at home as a manager: she was practical, down-to-earth, and always very likeable. When College of the Redwoods came to the coast, it was a lucky accident that got LaRue back into psychology.”
White continued: “I met LaRue in 1985, and began working with her at the College of the Redwoods campus in Fort Bragg in 1990. Our relationship lasted fifteen years, and gave us both the camaraderie and support that professors working at a small, rural, satellite campus desperately needed. La Rue was “of the people.” She was very laid back, but she had a brain of steel. She was also incredibly loyal and family oriented. Although she did not have children of her own, she was close to her niece and nephew who lived in Caspar. LaRue was fun to hang out with. We shared a lot of laughs over the years.
“LaRue had a strong belief that we humans like to be at the edge of what we can accomplish: that life is a balance of using our brain as much as possible, without being stressed out. She shared this insight with her students, along with a sincere interest in their lives. Many of her former students remain in the area, and their faces light up at the mention of her name.”
One of those former students, Terri Ebrey, RN, Hospice Coordinator at Mendocino Coast Home Health, had this to say about Kobrin, “My early association with LaRue was as a student at College of the Redwoods in the 90's. She always seemed joyous and compassionate. LaRue arrived at class early. Those of us who did the same were greeted by that smile of hers, and were able to pick her marvelous brain. She never said no. She was patient and eager to share her knowledge.”
Ebrey was later privileged to care for LaRue Kobrin as a hospice nurse, a coincidence that pleased them both. She continued “At the end of her life, LaRue was fairly nonverbal. However, and here comes the special part, she still managed to exude joy and compassion. Without ever saying a word. It seemed to me that she felt peaceful acceptance in regard to her prognosis. She was an example of a life lived fully and lovingly.”
LaRue's husband and life partner for 44 years, Frank Bender, described her as follows: “From the first day we met, in 1970, we became friends, lovers, and soul mates. LaRue had a natural curiosity about people and their behavior which led her into the field of psychology. Her true life passion was that she gave of herself without prejudice or judgement, in an attempt to help those less fortunate.”
After LaRue's passing in 2014, Bender wanted to set up a memorial scholarship to benefit nursing students like those who had helped care for LaRue at the end of her life. He contacted Katie Fairbairn, executive director of the Mendocino College Foundation, and together they developed the LaRue Kobrin Memorial Scholarship, a perpetual scholarship that benefited six remarkable nursing students in 2016. The grateful recipients were: Rebecca Yaffe of Fort Bragg, Conrad Busath of Ukiah, Ronda Esparza of Clearlake Park, Ariel North of Willits, Joshua Smith of Ukiah, and Katie Wilson of Willits.
“LaRue Kobrin touched countless people's lives because she was such a loving, caring, and giving human being. These scholarships will continue to touch lives and remind us all what it means to make a difference in a life. On behalf of the Mendocino College Foundation, we are honored to be the steward of this gift,” stated executive director Katie Fairbairn.
For more information about the Mendocino College Foundation or to donate towards any of their programs, call them at 707-467-1018 or visit http://foundation.mendocino.edu.
2016-2017 repcipients: Rebecca Yaffe, Conrad Busath, Ronda Esparaza, Arilel North, Joshua Smith, Katie Wilson