Thomas Bull; psychiatrist at Bridgewater, other hospitals

Thomas Bull III also had a private psychiatric practice.
Thomas Bull III also had a private psychiatric practice.

A forensic psychiatrist who also kept a private practice, Dr. Thomas Bull III was interested in the ways drugs interacted and how they affected not just the brain, but emotions.

For many years he was a psychiatrist at Bridgewater State Hospital and also worked as a staff psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Belmont and Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.

Though he saw patients of all ages, he worked particularly well with couples, according to his wife, Elinor. He arranged his private practice so patients could make appointments during regular working hours or after hours. He also allowed couples to schedule time together or separately.


“A lot of couples’ therapists wouldn’t see them individually, and Tom did,” his wife said. “He always managed to keep the confidentiality with one and never blow it with the other.”

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Dr. Bull, who had a private psychiatric practice in Brookline and Duxbury from 1969 until 1989, died March 5 in his Quincy home of dementia and throat cancer. He was 81.

He was able to connect to others immediately, an ability his wife called “a gift.”

Decades ago, he was a staff psychiatrist at Boston City Hospital. He also had been a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, his family said.

Dr. Bull lived in Duxbury from 1969 until 1989, when he moved to Plymouth, N.H., for 10 years. He then lived in Harborside, which is part of Brooksville, Maine, and in New Bern, N.C., before settling in Quincy.


Throughout his life, Dr. Bull liked challenges at work and in his free time and even purchased a 75-pound tricycle when he was older.

“He would ride that thing so fast around the development that he could take corners on two wheels,” said his son Jonathan of Turners Falls.

Thomas Albert Bull III was born in Jacksonville, Fla., where he spent most summers loathing golf while caddying for his father, his family said.

His father had founded a country club and aimed to win each round he played, despite Florida’s scorching summer heat. When, many years later, Dr. Bull’s own golf clubs were stolen from his car, it might have been one of the happiest moments of his life. “He was relieved of some sort of obligation,” his son said.

Dr. Bull graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree.


There was a history of doctors in his family, and he enrolled in the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine for a year before his father died. Then he left and joined the Navy, where he spent four years specializing in underwater demolition.

For the next two years he lived in San Francisco and sold advertising for magazines before his mother persuaded him to return to medical school. Dr. Bull graduated in 1964 from the College of Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He moved north to become a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and complete his residency at Boston City Hospital.

While waiting in line for residency registration, Dr. Bull met Elinor Borenstein. They both worked at City Hospital and married in 1966. She was a psychotherapist who worked by his side for the next 40 years.

“We never fought. We had a very loving relationship,” she said. “Our patients were the focus, and we listened to each other. Every medication he prescribed I would ask, ‘What is your rationale about prescribing it?’ And he taught me.”

When Dr. Bull moved to Plymouth, N.H., he continued his private practice and served as a forensic psychiatrist for the state. He also was a staff psychiatrist at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth and medical director of a substance abuse center in Sunapee, N.H.

During the late 1990s, Dr. Bull disagreed with how insurance providers in New Hampshire handled his clients, his family said, and he testified before the state Legislature about billing and privacy practices.

Dr. Bull then moved to Harborside, Maine, and took time off from work before becoming medical director of an agency that worked with young patients.

From 2002 until 2008, he was medical director for the assertive community treatment team for the Neuse mental health center in New Bern, N.C.

When Dr. Bull developed dementia, he retired and moved with his wife to Quincy, and spent his remaining years focusing on creative pursuits.

He traveled around New England shooting photographs, capturing hundreds of landscapes and framing the “good ones” to hang in his home, Jonathan said.

Dr. Bull also enjoyed painting and writing, but his true passion was sculpting, and the last full sculpture he completed was of Daniel Webster, the statesman in the 1800s.

While his children were growing up, Dr. Bull wrote several novels, which remain unpublished, and was a fan of Robin Cook’s medical thrillers.

A service has been held for Dr. Bull, who in addition to his wife and son leaves another son, Ian of Quincy; a sister, Mary Jane Morris of Jacksonville, Fla.; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

An avid sailor and swimmer, Dr. Bull owned a sailboat for more than 15 years, and took his family from Marion Harbor to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block Island. He also was a skier, bicyclist, weightlifter, and runner.

Jonathan was 6 when his father taught him to play tennis, and when Dr. Bull’s two sons were teenagers, the family played doubles matches.

“We would spend hours on the courts while beating the stuffing out of each other,” Jonathan said.

Michele Richinick can be reached at