Obituary – Tina Riner

Tina Riner, highly regarded interpreter for the deaf

By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, May 28, 2010

DADE CITY — Tina Riner loved horses and sign language.

She was a highly regarded interpreter for the deaf who could sign with subtlety and contextual accuracy in different dialects and in sensitive situations, including legal and medical work.

When hospitals needed someone to communicate with a rape victim who was deaf, they called Riner. If a suspect police were interviewing in a criminal case was deaf, they called her, too.

Her affinity for horses dated back to infancy, when her mother ferried her around on horseback, starting at 9 months old. She owned a miniature horse, about 3 feet tall, all black except for his white forelegs. Socks pulled her in a buggy when she visited neighbors, or gave rides to children.

Ms. Riner died May 13, after falling from a horse. She was 38.

She was born and raised in Naples, and she found her twin loves early. She saw her first sign language interpreter in the fourth grade, and the other hook was set.

Ms. Riner went to Stetson University, then Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where she became certified in sign language.

She moved to Lithia, then Dade City, and began contracting her work as a signer. She did it for 15 years, and it suited her.

“She was smart,” said her mother, Nadine Riner. “It was a reward to her and challenging at the same time.”

Ms. Riner traveled the state and beyond, helping the deaf communicate across a gamut of situations.

Sometimes the hospital called because a deaf person had been involved in an accident or was giving birth.

She signed at museum lectures and plays, for NASA in Cape Canaveral, even on cruises. She signed for politicians, including Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, when they passed through the Tampa Bay area. Once, she signed for a taping of Oprah.

“She had conceptual accuracy and the ability to do cultural translation,” said Jennifer Hess, an employment services specialist for Port Richey’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Florida. “She could translate an idiom from English into something maybe a deaf person could understand. She also did medical and legal interpreting. You have to have great skills to do that, because the liability is so high.”

She smoldered when she saw clients neglected by their parents or the school system. (Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. But only 20 percent of those parents ever learn sign language, Hess said).

She answered the same questions about deaf people over and over. One of her pet peeves was that people found it so hard to believe deaf people can drive cars.

“Those are things you would think would be hidden by the dark ages,” said friend and fellow interpreter April Perry, 38. “But we see them every day.”

To symbolize her frustration, Ms. Riner sometimes wore a T-shirt that read: “I see dumb people.”

Away from work, Ms. Riner re-tiled and painted the home she bought five years ago. She was equally happy knocking down or painting walls; sanding furniture or curled up with a book; all dressed up for a trial or out in the yard with her big hat, pushing a lawn mower.

She was nearly finished with a remodeling and painting project, and she was looking forward to taking her interpreting business to the next level, whatever that might be.

At 9 p.m. May 7, she went horseback riding with a neighbor. John Olski said he and Ms. Riner had just entered a pasture behind his property when she told him to go ahead.

“She said, ‘I’ll be right with you,’ ” said Olski, 83.

When she didn’t catch up, Olski turned around and looked back. He saw the quarter horse she had been riding thundering toward him. He wondered why she was going so fast.

The quarter horse flew past him, reins flapping. No one was riding it.

Olski found Ms. Riner on the ground. She died six days later at Tampa General Hospital, a result of head injuries sustained in the fall, her family said.

Her family and friends are trying to reconcile the loss.

Said Perry: “Tina had accomplished everything life had to offer.”

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Andrew Meacham can be reached at or . Copyright 2010 St. Petersburg Times

Lazy Bones

During yoga class the teacher, Tina, tells me to lift up a bit. I’m squatting in a pose (it’s sort of this made up pose that I’ve dubbed the Tinasana) and Tina says my middle is sagging.

“The muscles in your body will automatically revert to being lazy if given the chance,” she says.

Lazy? But I’m working so hard, I think.

Later, in Warrior II I’m concentrating on my arms when Tina reminds me to firm my thighs. If I don’t pay attention, they become lazy.

Yet another pose and my feet are splaying instead of pointing in the right direction. Guess why?

Really. Out of all the things in the world, I don’t consider myself lazy. But apparently even when I’m truly working on my alignment there are parts of my body that are secretly trying to get away with as little as possible.

After class I start thinking . . . does that apply to other areas of my life?

No way. I’m motivated! Diligent!Relentless in my pursuits!

Aren’t I?

Except in the mornings. I like to linger in bed. It’s warm and cozy. Plus I’m still sleepy. By the time I do get up, shower, and eat breakfast, I’m always surprised at how much of the day has gotten away from me before I make it to my home office.

And walking. I love my afternoon walks. Love them. Then why do I skip them from time to time, opting instead to sit and work a little longer?

Speaking of work, I realized something as I began investigating this whole laziness issue. If I have ten things on my “To Do” list, I tend to opt for the easiest projects first. When I do start working on a hard topic (say an article that requires a lot of research or possibly a personal essay that forces me to do some inner work), I will drop it as soon as I feel stuck. I tell myself I’ll get back to it and turn my attention to the easier assignments again.

Isn’t it funny the insights yoga gives us into our lives? So if you’ll excuse me, I have an article I’ve put off. I’d better get working on it.

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A Time to Feast

I’m hanging out with my parents when my dad sees me frantically rubbing my thumbs against the palms of my hands.

“Are you nervous?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

He wants to know why. How to explain?

My parents have been visiting the past few days. I haven’t seen them in over six months. It’s the longest period of time we’ve ever been apart (even when I lived in Europe after college I saw them at least every four months). The past few days have been one big party. We’ve eaten red meat and fried foods. We’ve had Grasshoppers (ice cream and alcohol) and cookies. I think I munched on a vegetable in there somewhere – yes, I steamed spinach one night – but other than that, I can’t say I’ve been practicing “mindful eating” since Saturday. And my home yoga regime? Completely cut off once my parents arrived (although my mom saw my mat, which was rolled out on the floor, and she practiced sun salutations).

“I’m not sure what to blog about for Wasa this week,” I finally say to my dad.

“Well, let’s think,” he says.

“I’m supposed to blog about yoga and mindful eating, but I’m not inspired given my eating habits and lack of yoga practice,” I explain.

My dad is silent for awhile. “You could talk about how yoga is important for old people like me,” he finally says. “As people age, they are at an increased risk of falling. So write in your blog that yoga is important for balance and to do yoga with a Wasa cracker.”

“Uh, okay. Thanks,” I say.

“Just trying to help,” he says.

My mom chimes in too. “Oh, I know,” she says. “Blog about the fact that we bought a juicer.”

It’s true. My parents read the Wasa blog and were inspired to buy a juicer.

“Last week we made peach juice with vodka,” my mom says. “It was delicious!” She pauses. “Am I missing the point?”

Well, I do wish they would make vegetable juice instead, but maybe I’m the one who is missing the point. As I drop them off at the airport, I know what I’m going to blog about: A Time to Feast. This week we’ve hit up good restaurants and had fun cooking in too. We played cards and watched baseball and talked, all over scones for breakfast and steaks for dinner. It was a reunion. A celebration.  A time to enjoy life. Not that we couldn’t have done that over Brussels sprouts and brown rice, but eating well most of the time makes it easier to allow the exceptions. Not to mention, those “exceptions” are much appreciated.

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