April 15, 2010

Boater's drowning makes no sense to grieving family



Staff Writer

Dr. John Myers of Freeport was an accomplished boater who studied tide charts and currents and summered at Salsbury Cove his entire life.

He left his home there Tuesday to sail his 23-foot boat to a marina in Hancock, where he would leave it for the winter.

He called his family to tell them that the final sail of the season had been ''perfect and invigorating.''

Myers, 60, then began the 3-mile trip back across Frenchman Bay in a 12-foot motorized skiff that he had towed behind his sailboat. He never reached home.

After a search that lasted nearly two days, his body was found around 11 a.m. Thursday on the shore of Bar Harbor, across from Bar Island. He was wearing a life jacket.

''This is the ultimate tragedy, and the most perfect ending that I have ever experienced in my life,'' said his sister-in-law, Elisabeth Houghton of Freeport. ''He was the most cautious and sensible person I know. He knew what to do in the water. He never took risks. It doesn't make sense. We shouldn't have lost him, but it was the perfect place for him to go.''

Myers, who lived on Prout Road in Freeport, always wore his life jacket and took every safety precaution he could, particularly after two of his sons got caught on a sandbar in the waters off Cape Elizabeth in 1989. The tide came in and his son Jamie died. His other son survived.

''It was horrible,'' said his sister, Maggy Myers of Radnor, Pa. ''John took it hard. It made him incredibly worried about safety, which is so ironic about this. He was a safety nut. Mother Nature can be so cruel.''

Myers was reported missing late Tuesday afternoon, after he failed to contact a friend he planned to meet for dinner, police said.

The Coast Guard searched for him through Tuesday night and, just before 4 a.m. Wednesday, found his skiff capsized near Bald Rock, south of Hancock Point and three miles east of Salsbury Cove.

Myers was an internal medicine doctor but a fisherman at heart, his family said. He fished, lobstered and dove for scallops. Houghton said he had a passion for cooking, and made his best seafood dishes at family gatherings.

''He was fond of his cooking and always wanted to include me,'' Houghton said. ''It was touching.''

Myers graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, then went to the Duke University School of Medicine and graduated in the mid-1970s.

He was a resident at Maine Medical Center in Portland and was recruited by Spurwink Medical Practice, now the Greater Portland Medical Group.

His former colleague and friend Dr. Stephen Larned said he was generous with his time and often stayed late to answer patients' questions.

''His patients loved him,'' Larned said. ''John was someone who always offered his time or labor. I was flabbergasted to hear the news. We all thought of John as someone who was so knowledgeable about the water, and so capable.''

Most recently, Myers worked in Bangor at a satellite clinic for the Togus VA Medical Center.

Myers, formerly of Cape Elizabeth, was the second oldest of five children.

He was married for 19 years to Grace Houghton. He had four children.

Maggy Myers said her brother loved gardening and hiking at Acadia National Park. She said she admired his intellect and integrity.

Elizabeth Houghton was grateful to the Maine Marine Patrol, the Coast Guard and others who searched for Myers.

''They went great lengths to find John,'' she said. ''If there's one message behind all this it's you never take the ocean for granted.''


-- The Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:



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