WATERTOWN — For most of her life, Evelyn Sinclair was too busy asking how her friends and family were to talk about her seemingly endless list of talents.
On Monday, at around 2:10 p.m., Ms. Sinclair was walking out of the Community Bank on Washington Street when she was struck in the parking lot by a vehicle operated by former Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr.
According to police, Mr. Butler pulled into the bank’s parking lot shortly before the incident. It appears he was pulling into a space that was nearly too small to fit his 2013 Toyota 4Runner.
As he was pulling into the tight space, Mr. Butler noticed a vehicle nearby was pulling out to leave, opening up a larger space for his SUV.
Mr. Butler began heading toward the other space when Ms. Sinclair was walking out of the bank and into a blind spot of his vehicle. That’s when she was struck.
Mr. Butler exited his vehicle, dialed 911 and attempted to treat Ms. Sinclair.
There are variables factored into an accident like this. It was cloudy, the pavement was dark and Ms. Sinclair’s clothes happened to be as well. His vehicle didn’t have a backup camera, and he told police he never saw her. But above all, every indication to police points toward it being an accident.
Mr. Butler would later be cited for unsafe backing, Det. Lt. Joseph Donoghue Sr. said.
“It’s like everything lined-up for something to go bad,” Mr. Donoghue said. “Vehicles all have blind spots somewhat.”
EMTs and firefighters treated Ms. Sinclair at the scene and then she was transported by helicopter to Upstate University Hospital, where she died. She was 90.
Jason Comet knew Ms. Sinclair for nearly 30 years. They met when he was around 10 years old at Bethany United Methodist Church in Watertown. Ms. Sinclair’s family meant the world to her, but she didn’t have many relatives in the area, so Mr. Comet said she adopted his family as sort of her own.
He was an organist, and, from the first one, she would go to every performance of his no matter where it was, he said.
“She was a big supporter of my music career,” he said.
Mr. Comet said he was on his way to the same bank Monday when first responders arrived on scene.
“Had I been five minutes earlier,” Mr. Comet said, “I probably would have run into her there and had seen her and talked to her, and it probably wouldn’t have happened.”
Of course Mr. Comet doesn’t blame himself, but it’s hard not to think about what could have happened.
“You think about those things,” he said. “You never know.”
Ms. Sinclair’s hobbies were extensive but few knew them all. She played the flute, the violin and practiced the organ with Mr. Comet. She was in the church’s choir and often sang solos at funerals, to which Mr. Comet would accompany her. She was a photographer, a model, a golfer and a member of the Red Hat Society, outgoing and an avid volunteer in her community.
Christine Comet, Mr. Comet’s mother, said Ms. Sinclair took over as the Methodist church’s organizer of its monthly chicken dinner in the 1990s, which helped pay the mortgage.
“Evelyn was a very lovely lady,” she said. “Accidents happen. I wouldn’t blame him.”
If she was asked about her talents, usually all Ms. Sinclair gave in return was something like “oh yeah I did that for a little while,” Mr. Comet said.
“She did a lot of stuff, and she never really got to talking about herself very often,” Mr. Comet said. “It was always ‘how is everybody else doing?’”
And she did it until the very end, evidenced by her driving to the bank and living on her own.
“She did not want anybody to tell her she couldn’t do something,” Mr. Comet said. “If she wanted to do it, she was going to do it.”
As for the accident, Mr. Comet said he feels bad for the former mayor. Rumors and accusations toward Mr. Butler began circulating online shortly after the accident.
“You guys know nothing about the situation,” Mr. Comet said about some making comments on Facebook. “You’re making assumptions based on nothing.”
Mr. Comet said he feels no malice toward Mr. Butler.
“I am sure Butler feels horrible,” he said. “My thoughts are with him.”
And despite the sudden and tragic end, his friend lived a full life.
“She was a wonderful individual. 90 years old? What a life,” Mr. Comet said. “Right up until the very end.”
CORRECTION: Randy Contello, a Brooklyn photographer who recalled his friendship with Evelyn Sinclair in a story about her life published on Page A3 Saturday, was speaking about another woman with the same name who died in an accident in October 2019. Evelyn Sinclair of Watertown died after she was struck by a car last Monday.