John McLoughlin Birch of Cape Elizabeth wasn’t one to be dissuaded throughout his nearly 103 years.

“He was very independent — and pretty stubborn in some ways,” said his daughter, Deirdre Birch Larson. “He would get these ideas and nothing would stop him.”

Dr. Birch died Friday, two days before his 103rd birthday. Larson said he was mentally sharp, still stubborn and insistent on helping people until a few weeks before his death.

Birch didn’t get into medicine until he was in his 30s. Originally, he planned to work in his grandfather’s textile mills in upstate New York. He was learning how the mills worked when the Depression forced the business to close.

He tried some other potential careers, Larson said, but it was clear that they weren’t right for him.

“Everything he did that he didn’t like just didn’t work,” she said.

Finally a family friend who was a doctor suggested medicine and that career clicked with Birch.

He had a practice in family medicine for years and then decided to switch to internal medicine, becoming the oldest intern in his group, since he decided to specialize when he was almost 60.

Throughout his life, Dr. Birch would come up with ideas that others may not have agreed with, but he went ahead despite advice to the contrary.

For instance, one summer he decided that all five of his children should be able to swing together, Larson said, so he came up with a canvas and steel tube contraption that he was able to tie to a couple of trees in the yard. All the kids enjoyed it, until the weight pulled down one of the trees.

Another time, he wanted his children to be able to skate in the backyard, so he flooded it with a hose. They skated, with grass poking up through the ice.

When he was 99 he decided that he could still rake the yard, despite the fact that he needed a cane. So he was out in the yard, cane in one hand and rake in the other, Larson said. Although she was afraid he would lose his balance as he neared a stone wall, Larson said she knew better than to try to take him from his task.

Dr. Birch took part in daily swims at 6:30 a.m. at the Cape Elizabeth pool until he broke his hip shortly after turning 100, Larson said, and kept up an acquaintance with a kindergarten classmate until she died.

“It was his idea that no one should be left behind,” she said.

That included his patients, many of whom showed up for his 100th birthday party, traveling from as far away as Texas to be there. Included was a woman whose 12 children were all delivered by Dr. Birch, including one in the back of a station wagon on the way to the hospital.

“Everyone had their own love of him,” Larson said, “and for everybody it was different.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]