By Chad Ingram
If you ever met Sinclair Russell, you didn’t forget him.
During the weekend, Minden and Haliburton County at large lost one of its most colourful characters, colourful character being an understatement.
For many reading this, Sinc will need no introduction at all. A descendant of the pioneering Prentice and Pritchard families, in his words, he was related to half the county. He was also a walking vault of its history.
After growing up in Carnarvon, he left for Toronto where he took up residency in the Church and Wellesley area. His keen eye for design and décor led to jobs creating window displays for the major department stores of Toronto and New York City, and eventually a career that took him all over Europe decorating extravagant galas.
In 2014, Sinc returned to Haliburton County, purchasing a building in downtown Minden where he set up a pop-up Christmas shop. That’s when I first met him. In the following years, the community benefitted from his talents, with Sinc heading up decorating in Minden’s downtown. He became Minden’s Father Christmas, not only appearing as Father Christmas in the Santa Claus parade, but founding the festive Lights & Delights event, and helping to co-ordinate the cultural centre’s Festival of Trees. He was a founder of Minden Pride, and was always willing to talk publicly about what it had been like growing up gay in Haliburton County more than a half-century ago.
“It’s not really all that much about being gay,” he told me of Minden Pride for a story I wrote about him in 2017. “It’s about being inclusive to everybody. We don’t expect the world to turn gay. We just want everybody to be accepted.”
The interview for that story led to a tradition of occasional lunches, always at the Dominion Hotel, between Sinc and myself over the last three years. I always made sure I had a large chunk of time booked for those lunches, and I’m not sure there were any that lasted less than two hours. He’d regale me with stories of his journeys, many of which could never be printed here, and of rubbing elbows with celebrities along the way. There was also generally some degree of local gossip. I will miss those lunches. I will miss my friend.
Sinc was charismatic, acerbically witty, sarcastic and delightfully inappropriate when he felt so compelled. He was singularly unique. He was wholly and thoroughly himself.
My condolences to Sinc’s many family members and friends. Wherever he is now, the party is about to get a lot more fabulous.