Dr. John Butler MacGibbon, an internal medicine specialist who treated port of Baltimore mariners, died Dec. 24 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson of complications of a stroke and a fall. He was 90 and lived in Original Northwood.
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, he was the oldest of four siblings. His late brother, Tony, was a well-known New Zealand cricketer, and his late sister, Jean, was a New Zealand tennis champion.
He attended Christ's College in Christchurch, New Zealand, and then graduated from the University of Otago Medical School in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1948. He won a Fulbright Scholarship in 1950, which brought him to Baltimore.
Dr. MacGibbon was an internal medicine specialist. He served in the United States Navy in the 1950s as a lieutenant commander.
Family members said Dr. MacGibbon's early medical career in Baltimore was spent at the old U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at Wyman Park. He provided outpatient and inpatient medical care for the ship crews who came into the Baltimore harbor.
"He had an affinity for languages and he was able to ask sailors the basic questions pertaining to their health issues," said his niece, Angela Bunt of London.
In 1982, the Wyman Park facility changed its mission and Dr. MacGibbon moved to the old Church Home and Hospital on Broadway in East Baltimore.
"Dr. MacGibbon was legendary to those who knew him at this time," his niece said. "His knowledge of international infectious disease was extraordinary. He spoke seven languages fluently and it was rumored that he was conversant in 27 languages."
She said his command of language and of global infectious diseases was a great asset in the care of shipping crews. "Most were poor and uninsured," she said.
Dr. MacGibbon also saw patients in his specialty of infectious disease. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1954 to 1957 and was an instructor on the faculty of the Department of Medicine from 1960 to 2007. He regularly attended Maryland's weekly infectious disease conference and took a seat in the second row, center.
"He was an exemplary physician who was adored by his patients," his niece said. "He was also quiet, modest and brilliant."
She said he was passionate about "anything related to his home country." He never relinquished his New Zealand passport in favor of a U.S. passport.
He traveled regularly to New Zealand and in February 2011, at the age of 89, he made his last trip. His niece said he arrived in Christchurch one hour before the big earthquake struck.
She called him a "Renaissance man, an avid reader and accomplished watercolor painter." He enjoyed a wide range of music and loved films, including art house movies and comedies.
He was an accomplished cook and from his travels developed a taste for different ethnic cuisines, she said. He also rode a motorcycle well into his later years.
Dr. MacGibbon was a member of Baltimore City Medical Society and MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, for nearly 60 years. He served as a member of the Baltimore City Medical Society board of directors.
In retirement he read medical journals and online research and attended lectures and seminars.
"He was interwoven into the fabric of Baltimore, its waterfront community and Johns Hopkins," his niece said.
At his request, no funeral will be held. His ashes will be scattered off the coast of his home town, Christchurch, New Zealand.
In addition to his niece, survivors include four other nieces and two nephews.