Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Dr. Robert R. Southworth, 1927-2014: Defiance doctor loved by his patients



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DEFIANCE — Dr. Robert R. Southworth, whose desire to help others and interest in learning came together in his practice of medicine, died Tuesday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio. He was 86.

He had an apparent heart attack while a visitor at the medical center, said his son Stephen.

Dr. Southworth was in his 70s when he semi retired from his primary care practice of more than 40 years at Defiance Clinic.

“He was the first employee on the first day in 1962,” said Chad Peter, chief executive of what is now Mercy Defiance Clinic. “He was one of our rocks in our group.

”We all grew old with him,“ said Mr. Peter, whom Dr. Southworth hired in 1976 for a clinic administrative job. ”He was definitely loved by his patients. He was a very solid individual and physician, which helped our group go from 12 doctors to ultimately 35 over that number of years.“

In semi-retirement, he worked in state prisons. He volunteered for the Mildred Bayer Clinic for the Homeless in Toledo and for a group at the county senior center offering respite to elderly caregivers.

“He felt indebted to those less fortunate,” his son said, “but he would shun taking credit for doing things on their behalf. He‘‍d much rather do things anonymously.”

He was born Aug. 17, 1927, to Ella and Charles Southworth, in Beverly, Mass., and grew up in Danvers, Mass., where he went to high school. He was a stateside Navy veteran of World War II. As a child, he often went with his mother on her calls as a visiting nurse and made up his mind to become a doctor.

“He was absolutely committed to medicine,” his son said. “He was so impressed with his mother helping other people.”

Dr. Southworth was a graduate of Harvard University and Tufts University medical school. He completed an internship at Receiving Hospital in Detroit and a residency at the University of Michigan. A mentor urged him to stay in the Midwest. Dr. Southworth and his wife, also a native New Englander, moved to Defiance intent on saving enough to move back home.

“They came here with a two-year plan and stayed 50 years,” their son said. “They grew to love Ohio and Ohioans and saw they were fulfilling a need here.”

Dr. Southworth saw at least two generations of many families, and as his patients aged, he kept up on developments in cardiology. He was a fellow of the American College of Physicians and board certified in internal medicine.

“Medicine is a lifetime of learning. That is so important for an inquisitive and scientific mind,” said his son, also a physician.

Dr. Southworth was intensely interested in his grandchildren, his son said, and golfed with friends.

“All played golf badly, but with similar enthusiasm,” his son said. He also didn‘‍t tire of bridge, at which he was “equally unskilled,” his son said.

He attended at least one UM home football game a year and returned often to Harvard for alumni events.

He and Alice Adams married Jan. 20, 1955. She died in August, 2011.

Surviving are his sons Dr. Stephen, Christopher, and Michael Southworth; daughters Mary Southworth and Dawn Salvo; sister, Jane Southworth, and five grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in First Presbyterian Church of Defiance, where he was a member. Arrangements are by Schaffer Funeral Home, Defiance.

The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society; the American Heart Association, or Community Health Professionals In-Patient Hospice Center in Defiance.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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