LAKE LEELANAU — Bernard "Bernie" Rink was known as a wine pioneer on the Leelanau Peninsula, where he attributed the success of his grape-growing to a climate moderated by Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay.

Rink died Thursday surrounded by family and friends. He was 92.

Rink planted 15 acres of grapes in 1970 and opened Boskydel Vineyard, the county's first tasting room, thereby jumpstarting Leelanau's wine industry. The winery closed about a year ago.

Ed O'Keefe Jr., founder of Chateau Grand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula, didn't always agree with Rink's growing methods. But that never got in the way of their friendship.

"He was a damn good friend of mine," O'Keefe said. "I respected his integrity and that he stuck with his principles to the end."

Larry Mawby, owner of Mawby Vineyards and Winery in Suttons Bay, met Rink when he was a young man and Rink was in his late 40s. Mawby was interested in growing grapes and Rink had a small vineyard and was making wines in his basement.

Mawby tasted Rink's wines and for the first time thought that his dream was a possibility.

"He was the only grower who was growing grapes in the area, so I looked at him as sort of a mentor," Mawby said. "Bernie was one of the finest people I knew. He had a great sense of humor that eluded some people."

Rink's father grew grapes on the family farm in Ohio in America's pre-Depression era.

"He thought that experience would be good for his sons," Mawby said.

And those five sons would supply Rink with some free labor, Mawby said.

Rink was also passionate about trying to do the right thing, especially with taking care of the land and growing grapes responsibly, Mawby said.

"Bernie was wonderful."

Rink was born in Ohio and earned a master's in library science from John Carroll University and Case Western University. He worked as a librarian at Northwestern Michigan College for 30 years.

Rink was predeceased by his wife Suzanne and his brother, Carl Rink.

He is survived by his five sons, six grandchildren, two siblings and several nieces and nephews.

Arrangements are by the Martinson Funeral Home in Suttons Bay. Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, with a funeral mass at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at St. Mary's Church in Lake Leelanau.

A full obituary is on Page 5B.

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