NY biker bar owner who hosted free meals for 31 years dies

Glenville Funeral Home

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A local community is mourning the loss of a bar owner who always put others before himself.

Donald Birch died peacefully on Tuesday. He was 79.

Birch was the owner of the Saw Mill Tavern for decades, but his impact was much bigger.

“These are icons that help feed the people,” patron Warren Hickson said.

It’s not every day that Hickson calls someone an icon. But that’s who Birch was to him.

“It’s very rare to find people that’s willing to help the weak, the poor, and the needy,” he said.

For nearly 40 years, Birch owned the Schenectady tavern. For 31 of those years, he served free buffets every Sunday.

Birch always put others first looking to help those in need. An avid motorcyclist, he held bike runs for homeless veterans and an annual rally that donated hundreds of toys to the city mission.

“There’s only one Don Birch,” City Mission of Schenectady Exec. Dir. Michael Saccocio said. “He had the big heart, the big body. He was a strong man with a very tender loving heart for others.”

For all of this, Birch was much loved. His son John hopes to take after him.

“I’m proud of him, and I know he’s proud of me,” John said. “I’m gonna make him even prouder watching over me.”

Because John knows how special his dad was to the community.

“No one’s going to forget everything he’s done,” he said.

That’s especially the case for Hickson, who will be forever thankful to Birch.

“We have good angels, and he’s one of the good angels because he’s willing to help,” Hickson said.

Family and friends hope to rename the block of Jay Street by the tavern to Birch’s Way in his honor. They said they need 5,000 signatures to do so.

Birch will be laid to rest on Monday.

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