Terry Sinclair Dies

Dr. Terry Sinclair is seen in September 2017 at his home in the Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury retirement community in Winchester. Sinclair, who founded the Sinclair Health Clinic in 1986 to provide free medical services to low-income, uninsured residents of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, died on Friday at the age of 79.

WINCHESTER — Dr. Terry Sinclair, who was key in creating a medical clinic that provides free healthcare to low-income residents of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, died Friday at the Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury retirement community in Winchester where he resided with his wife, Diane. He was 79.

“He was my joy,” Diane Sinclair said on Monday about her husband of 55 years. “We traveled, he loved his family passionately, we laughed, we had fabulous experiences. We were blessed.”

Terry Sinclair, who retired as a practicing physician in 2015 after a stroke left him partially paralyzed, founded the Free Medical Clinic in 1986 in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Winchester to provide free health care to low-income, uninsured residents of Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County.

In 2003, the clinic relocated to its current home at 301 N. Cameron St., on the Our Health campus in Winchester. Fourteen years later, in 2017, the Free Medical Clinic was renamed the Sinclair Health Clinic to honor the man who dedicated his life to helping others.

“He enabled people to do good things,” Katrina McClure, executive director of the Sinclair Health Clinic, said on Monday about Terry Sinclair, who continued to serve as the clinic’s medical director emeritus and as a member of its board of directors after his retirement. “His kindness, his generous spirit, his courageous vision ignited a passion in others to confront equality, drugs, human suffering. He gave people an avenue to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Terry Sinclair joined the staff at Winchester Medical Center in 1974 and eventually became vice president of medical affairs for the hospital’s corporate parent, Valley Health.

On Oct. 23, 1986, he spearheaded the opening of the Free Medical Clinic.

“There was a group of people in Winchester who heard about a free clinic [in Roanoke] and they thought it needed to be done in Winchester as well,” Terry Sinclair said in 2017. “They asked if I would be willing to help find physicians and I said, ‘Sure, I’d love to do that.’”

Today, the Sinclair Health Clinic is the second-oldest free medical clinic in Virginia.

“His legacy is woven into the memories of everyone he’s touched in the clinic — all of the people who work here, the volunteers that make things happen and the thousands of patients who have passed through our doors,” McClure said. “He did a lot.”

One of those things was adding psychiatric care to the list of Sinclair Health Clinic’s medical services. Marian Newton, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and professor emeritus at Shenandoah University in Winchester, said on Monday that may not have happened if not for Terry Sinclair.

Newton said she and Dr. James Robert “Bob” Lizer spent a year trying to convince people of the necessity of offering mental health services at the clinic, but the overall response was negative due to funding and staffing concerns.

After months of frustration, they pitched the idea directly to Terry Sinclair.

“Within 10 minutes he said, ‘Of course we should do that. Go open the clinic next Tuesday,’” Newton said. “And that’s exactly what we did.”

That was about 20 years ago, Newton said. Ever since then, the Sinclair Health Clinic has offered free psychiatric services on the fourth Tuesday of every month.

Although the stroke in 2015 took away Terry Sinclair’s ability to practice medicine, his wife said he remained in relatively good health.

“He seemed so vital, even with the struggle of not having the use of his left side,” Diane Sinclair said.

However, he continued to experience occasional bleeding in his brain, which is what ultimately led to his demise.

Diane Sinclair was at her husband’s side Friday as he slipped away. She leaned over and gently told him it was OK to go.

“I said, ‘Well done now, good and faithful servant. You can rest.’”

In addition to his wife, Terry Sinclair is survived by two daughters, one son and eight grandchildren.

A funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 18, which would have been the Sinclairs’ 56th wedding anniversary. The service will be held at the site where his beloved Sinclair Health Clinic began — First Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Loudoun St. in downtown Winchester.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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