Alva Gordon Sink, friend of musicians, dies at 102
University Musical Society volunteer was charter member of Women’s City Club
By Liz Cobbs
News Staff Reporter
Alva Gordon Sink opened her Burns Park home to such musical giants as pianist Artur Rubenstein, pianist and conductor Sergey Rachmaninoff, and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The famous cellist Gregor Piatigorsky was even married there.
Sink, the wife of the late Charles Sink, who headed the University Musical Society from 1927-1968, enjoyed talking about her experiences with the musical greats who stayed in her Olivia Street home.
“She had wonderful, wonderful stories which she would tell to generations of U-M students and faculty,” said UMS President Ken Fischer. “The Sinks were very important to the University Musical Society.”
On Monday, Sink died in her Ann Arbor home. She was 102 years old.
A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational Church, 608 E. William at State Street in Ann Arbor. The Revs. Robert Livingston, Terry Smith and Dorothy Lenz will officiate. Private entombment will be made at Washtenong Memorial Park.
Family and friends say Sink enjoyed birthday celebrations and even celebrated her 102nd on Dec. 14. The UMS also helped Sink celebrate her 100th birthday in 1996, Fischer said.
“I’m thrilled that we had an opportunity to invite Alva Sink to make an opportunity to invite Alva Sink to make an appearance on our stage,” Fischer said. “It was her first visit in 10 years and she spoke to a capacity audience. It was just a grand, grand evening.”
A Holly native, Sink graduated from Holly High School in 1914, taught school, then enrolled in the U-M in 1919.
Sink enjoyed telling how she met her future husband while at U-M. Sink told The News in 1995 of how, during her junior and senior year, she lived with U-M President Marion Burton and his family in exchange for doing household work.
One night, Sink said, Burton told her he did not want to see anyone unless it was Charles Sink. “I am always here for him,” Sink recalled Burton saying.
A few minutes later, Alva Sink said she answered the doorbell and the visitor said: “I am Mr. Sink. I rightfully belong in the kitchen.” Sink said she was fascinated with him from that moment on.
The couple became engaged and married in the president’s house on June 18, 1923, the same day she received her bachelor’s degree from U-M.
U-M music professor Marilyn Mason, a long-time friend of Sink’s, said she and Sink had a common bond: Mason was born in the town of Alva, Okla., which was Sink’s first name.
“When she came to Michigan as a first year student, she was called into the office and told she had to change her name. Why? Because they could not tell if it were a girl or boy,” Mason recalled.
“Mrs. Sink was unique,” Mason continued. “She was gracious. Her social skills were impeccable. She always had a positive outlook and how she loved the U-M! With her passing, a special Ann Arbor era has closed.”
In addition to the UMS, Sink volunteered at the Washtenaw County Chapter of the American Red Cross, which her husband helped to establish.
Sink was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the Women’s City Club. At U-M, she organized the Alva Gordon Sink Alumnae Group.
“She was very generous and was always interested in meeting the students who were receiving scholarships,” said U-M’s Edith Bletcher, director of the Alumni Association’s scholarships and recruitment program.
Charles Sink, who was affiliated with the University Musical Society from 1904 to 1968, died on Dec. 17, 1972. Sink is survived by her niece, Helen Gordon of Grand Blanc; and nephew, Clarence Gordon, of Holly, and several great and great-great nieces and nephews.
“She was a very outgoing woman and a very sincere woman who always helped people financially and otherwise,” Clarence Gordon said.
Memorial tributes may be made to the Alva Gordon Sink Alumnae Group Scholarship Fund in care of the U-M Alumni Office or to Individualized Home Nursing Care.
Washtenong Memorial Park
Washtenaw County American Red Cross
University of Michigan - Alumni
University Musical Society (UMS)
First Congregational Church
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
Ann Arbor Women's City Club
Alva Gordon Sink Alumnae Group
Ann Arbor News
Rev. Terry N. Smith
Rev. Robert Livingston
Rev. Dorothy Lenz
Dr. Marion Leroy Burton
Charles A. Sink
Alva Joanna Gordon Sink
608 E William St