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Longtime Fort Wayne-area legislator John Sinks dies at 83

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 4:42 pm

John Sinks, who served 32 years as a state representative and senator, died Saturday at age 83.

When he retired in 1996, Sinks said he knew something that he wished some of his former colleagues in the Statehouse realized: when it was time to walk away.

“Everybody’s got to go sometime,” he said for a News-Sentinel article. “You have to know when your time is up. I look at the people I’ve served with over the years; some should be leaving, and some should have left.”

He was succeeded as 16th District state senator by David Long, who continues in that post to this day.

“He was the epitome of graciousness,” said Steve Shine, who served as campaign director for Sinks before becoming Allen County Republican chairman. “I never heard one bad word come out of his mouth. He was very humane and got along with people on both sides of the (political) aisle.”

Shine said Sinks was also well-loved as a government teacher and guidance counselor at Elmhurst High School before retiring there in 1993 after nearly 40 years. He was a graduate of North Side High School and had served in the Air Force during the Korean War.

He paid particular attention to educational issues in his 12 years in the House and 20 years in the Senate. He said he was most proud of sponsoring the mandatory seat belt law in the late 1980s. “It has saved lives,” he said in the 1996 article.

Sinks said he was surprised he lasted as long as he did in state politics – and equally surprised that his family survived the pressures intact.

“Politics is a jealous mistress. I’ve seen a number of divorces in my time in the Senate,” he said. “It’s easy to get too wrapped up in this. You start to think, ‘It’s my life.’ But somebody gets ignored when you do that.”

His wife, Mary Lou, preceded him in death, after 46 years of marriage.

He is survived by his son, John Sinks III of Bethlehem, Pa., and a grandson.