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Cecil Sinclair
A Life Well Lived

by Pepe Johnson

Throughout the twenty-minute drive to Paul Wagnerís home, I kept trying to practice how I would begin. Two weeks earlier, Paulís partner, Cecil Sinclair, had passed away due to illness. The High Point Church of Arlington, Texas, offered to host the funeral. Paul and Cecilís family thanked the church and accepted their offer. Less than twenty-four hours before the memorial service was to take place, the church canceled claiming they were unaware that Cecil was gay and could not go forward with a ceremony that might seem to condone homosexuality.

A flurry of media attention began with the Dallas Morning News and word soon spread around the globe of the churchís inhospitability. The family was able to make new arrangements and the memorial service proceeded. After reading the several articles and blogs covering the story, it struck me that we knew a lot about High Point Church, but little about Cecil Sinclair. And shouldnít Cecil Sinclair be the focus?

Others felt the same way I did and it was suggested GMT write a profile of Cecil so that our readers would be able to know Cecil for the man he was and not simply for the inappropriate actions of the church.

I sat down with Cecilís partner, Paul Wagner, his mother, and sister, Kathleen Wright. Through all of their grief, the family was in good spirits and willing to talk about Cecil. It is always a privilege to share such precious memories. It is our hope that in some small way we can honor Cecil.

Kathleen had pulled Cecil out of the closet. Cecil had always been a private person, not sharing too much with his family. When she or anyone else asked him what he was doing that weekend, he would respond, "I have a social life." And would leave it at that. After not seeing him for seven months, Kathleen was frustrated and called him. In that one conversation, she assured her brother that everything was all right and the familyís love was unconditional. Without specifying, Cecil understood exactly what she meant, and the closet door came open. After that conversation, the relationship between Cecil and his family became stronger. Honesty opened the door and allowed light to enter.

Cecilís family always felt he was gay. When he joined the US Navy in 1982, it was surprising but not shocking. Cecil had earned good marks in the college courses he had taken, but college was not the place for Cecil at that time. He joined the Navy and served as a radioman at Barberís Point, Hawaii. He toughed it out for four years in paradise, and returned to Texas where he continued to serve in the Naval Reserve. He also returned to college and completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Even with his education and four years of honorable service to this nation, Cecil had trouble finding a job. Without a war going on, it is easy for some to forget that military service is still necessary and taking on a new employee who had reserve duty once a month and possible deployment down the road was not something many employers wanted to accept. Cecil had been working as a waiter and earning good money. Eventually he moved up and trained others in providing excellent service. Paul remembered that Cecil always set high standards for the staff when they would go to restaurants. Cecil was generous with the tip when the service merited such generosity.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Cecil, like many other reservists, was called to active duty. Returning to his work in communications, Cecil helped to coordinate search-and-rescue efforts. In reality, Cecil continued to be a private person and spoke sparingly of his time in the Navy. His family had learned not to pry too deeply and did not bother with millions of questions when he returned. They were glad to have him home. Whether at his civilian job or serving in the Navy, Cecil was focused on the mission. He did not seek out glory or special recognition for himself. He did not embellish stories of his military career in order to paint a picture of himself other than how he truly was.

After leaving the Naval Reserve and being dragged out of the closet by his sister, Cecil became more involved in their lives and in community life. He joined the Turtle Creek Chorale, the world recognized gay menís chorus, in Dallas. He also began to introduce his gay friends to his sister. Instead of living his life in compartments, he was now able to enjoy a more complete life.

Paul and Cecil met online. But they werenít in a gay chatroom looking for sex. They were in a military chatroom. When an aggressive anti-military activist started to cause trouble, Cecil quickly shut him down. Paul, who was in the Army, emailed Cecil to congratulate him for a job well done. So the two began to correspond regularly via email. Later they agreed to meet. Paul drove up from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Cecil lived in the Oaklawn neighborhood in Dallas, a predominantly GLBT area. Driving up Cedar Springs Road on a weekend night, Paul began to realize there was something more to Cecil than he had realized.

After Paul left the Army in 2003, he looked at several options. A native of Minnesota, he joined the Army in 1987 and had traveled the world, but in the end he decided to stay in Texas. He moved to Dallas and moved in with Cecil. Cecilís family fell in love with Paul just like Cecil did.

Cecil Sinclair was a humble, private man who served his country with dignity. And so we will always remember him.