John C. Norton Jr.

Baltimore obstetrician and gynecologist delivered an estimated 7,000 babies during his 46-year career.

August 30, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Dr. John C. Norton Jr., a retired Baltimore obstetrician and gynecologist who during his 46-year career delivered an estimated 7,000 babies, died Monday of complications from a stroke at his Catonsville home. He was 91.

Dr. Norton, whose father was a Baltimore obstetrician and gynecologist, was born in Baltimore and raised on Montrose Avenue in Catonsville.

By the time he was 9 years old, Dr. Norton had settled on a medical career.

"It was a lofty dream, considering he spent two years of his early age sick with rheumatic fever," wrote Suzanne M. Dieringer, a daughter who lives in Davidsonville, in a eulogy for her father. "Even his own father, a physician, never thought he'd reach college age."

He was a 1935 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College in 1940.

After graduating from Georgetown Medical School in 1943, he served his internship and trained as a resident at Bon Secours Hospital under Dr. Emil Novak, a well-known Baltimore gynecologist.

Dr. Norton established a private practice as a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at an office on Edmondson Avenue. In the late 1960s, he was elected president of the medical and dental staff at Bon Secours Hospital and also practiced at St. Agnes Hospital.

He later moved to a Baltimore National Pike office and then to Frederick Road, where he worked until retiring in 1992.

Dr. Norton's daily routine was to see patients from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and then go home for dinner with his family at 6 p.m. He would return an hour later to his office, where he saw patients until 9 p.m.

"I first worked with him in the operating room at Bon Secours and later for 13 years in his office. He was very patient and compassionate above all else when it came to the patients," said Theresa G. Zeitler, yesterday.

"Even though he worked long hours and in addition to making house calls in the early years and delivering babies, he always spent quality time with his patients and never rushed them," she said. "He delivered more than 7,000 babies through the years, and if a mother had a stillborn, he was right there to comfort the parents," she said.

"On a personal note, I had had three miscarriages. He helped me, and if I hadn't gone to him, I wouldn't have had my two children," Mrs. Zeitler said.

The Rev. Christopher Whatley is pastor of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville where Dr. Norton was a communicant.

"He was a renowned physician whose patients just loved him. They felt very comfortable with him and he always treated them with dignity and respect," Father Whatley said.

"He was always a man of deep faith and was very charitable toward St. Mark's. He took care of many religious orders of woman and gave physicals at Mount St. Joe High School," he said. "He also went to various Catholic high schools, where he gave 'the talk.' "

He described Dr. Norton as a "snappy dresser" who was known for his collection of vivid plaid sports coats.

Family members said that Dr. Norton said his rosary daily and always tipped his hat when he passed by a church.

Dr. J. William Cook, a Catonsville internist, grew up with Dr. Norton's eight children and later became his personal physician.

"I so admired him and wanted to be like him, and that's why I went into medicine," Dr. Cook said. "He was unflappable, never excited, and always seemed to know what to do."

The Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, is an old family friend of more than 50 years.

"He was a strikingly handsome tall man with wonderful white Irish skin," said Father Roach. "He also had the gift of being a gifted conversationalist. He really was a wonderful talker."

Dr. Norton enjoyed collecting coins and gemstones. He was also an avid Orioles fan and liked spending summers at a home he owned in Ocean City.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Thursday at his church.

Also surviving are his wife of 64 years, the former Sally Mohler; three sons, John C. Norton III of Keedysville, Donald M. Norton of Baltimore and Kevin P. Norton of Catonsville; four other daughters, Lynn N. Partalis of Greensboro, Ga., Dorothy R. Roach of Towson, R. Ann Utocouto of Windsor Mill and Patricia J. Norton of Catonsville; 18 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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