Founder's Fight Ends

Jerome Sikorski, a founder of Whitman-Walker Clinic, dies at 69

Over the past several months, Jerome Sikorski was a regular — though emotional — part of his friend Jerry Filbin’s days.

”I saw him twice a day through his whole illness,” Filbin says of Sikorski’s battle with bone marrow cancer, with which he was diagnosed in March.

”I stopped by in the morning and I stopped by at night, to make sure he was fed,” he says of his ill friend who lived near Logan Circle. “I picked him up from the hospital, dropped him off at the hospital, and visited him there. We got really close in times of crisis.”

That crisis came to its unfortunate end June 9, as Sikorski died of heart failure. He was 69.

While living in Washington, Sikorski had devoted much of his time to volunteer efforts including nearly 30 years as an usher for the Washington National Cathedral.

He also volunteered at Whitman-Walker Clinic, where he met Filbin while serving on the board of directors in the late 1990s.

Sikorski stayed on the board of directors through early 2010, serving intermittently for 20 years.

The Detroit-native, who was gay, was in Washington in the late ’70s when the Whitman-Walker Clinic, then known as the Gay Men’s VD Clinic, was coming together. He is credited as one of the founders of the organizations.

”I think he saw a great deal of need for gay men in Washington who really needed help around the issue of alcohol use and drug abuse,” says Filbin. “I think that’s really what made him think, along with others, that we needed a structured organization that could address these needs and do outreach and behavioral training and counseling.

”Not more than two years later, AIDS emerged. And there was the clinic. Even though it was a shoestring operation, it was already in place to help respond. It really was the only place in D.C. that was prepared to respond.”

The day after his death, WWC board chair June Crenshaw released a statement acknowledging Sikorski’s legacy:

”I will miss Jerome for his advice and counsel to me, his wonderful memory and story-telling of the Clinic’s decades of community service, and his dry wit. I could always count on Jerome to challenge me to do the right thing for the Clinic and our patients.”

Sikorski, with a bachelor’s degree in design and art history and a master’s degree in architectural history and decorative arts from Detroit’s Wayne State University, spent his professional life as an art historian, archivist and librarian. He also earned a master’s degree in archives and special libraries in D.C. at the Catholic University of America.

”He was just so bright and intellectually curious,” Filbin says. ”He would make fun of pomposity whenever he could, and that was the fun of being around him.”

A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, June 29, at the National Cathedral at the Bethlehem Chapel. For details, contact .

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