Dr. John M. Birch, 102: Devoted life to helping others

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Dr. John McLoughlin Birch, 102, died July 9 at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House two days before his 103rd birthday.

Born in Utica, N.Y., July 11, 1907, a son of Mabel McLoughlin Birch and Alfred C. Birch, he was educated in Utica schools.

In 1930 he graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. 

He married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Isabel Dixon, on June 27, 1931.

After college, he worked in insurance, and performed roof inspections until he enrolled in the College of Osteopathy in Philadelphia. On April 17, 1943, he graduated and opened a family practice in Hanover, Penn.

The desire to be near the ocean led him to relocate to Maine, where he opened an internal medicine practice in Waterville and later in Portland. At the age of 88, he retired his license to practice.

His medical career helped fulfill his lifelong desire to be of help to others. This desire endured to the end, when even in his last days, he would ask, “What can I do for you?”

His family and friends will lovingly recall his various ventures, from flooding his backyard with a hose to make a skating rink for his children one winter; to learning how to sew to make bags for his sailing equipment; and in his 90s, when he took over the family laundry and learned how to skillfully use an iron.

He found joy in sailing Casco Bay, writing long letters to friends and reading.

A special joy was his 6 a.m. daily swim at Don Richard’s Community Pool in Cape Elizabeth, which he continued through his 100th birthday.

He was predeceased by his wife Dorothy on July 30, 1998.

Surviving are his two children, son Jeremy Dixon Birch and his wife Janet of Putney, Vt., and daughter Deirdre Birch Larson and her husband, James Larson of Cape Elizabeth; five grandchildren, Alison Birch Harada, Sarah Birch Kerneklian, Elizabeth Birch, Rebecca Sarah Harms, and Emily Birch Harms; seven great-grandchildren; and his dear friend and companion, Ruth Maclean.

A memorial service will be held later this summer.

The family wishes to thank the staff on the P3 floor at Maine Medical Center and the Gosnell Memorial Hospice house for their exceptional care.

Arrangements are by Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland.

Memorial donations may be made to Saint Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road,  Windham, ME 04062.

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