Cover photo for Peter Joseph  Irigaray's Obituary
Peter Joseph  Irigaray Profile Photo
1932 Peter 2021

Peter Joseph Irigaray

April 28, 1932 — December 16, 2021

(Durham) – Peter J. Irigaray (Pedro Jose Irigaray Gonzalez), age 89, died peacefully in his home surrounded by his children on December 16, 2021. He was born on April 28, 1932 to the late Pedro Irigaray Laurenz (Garralda, Navarre, Spain) and Maria Luisa Gonzalez de Irigaray (Carmona, Santander, Cantabria, Spain).

 He spent his childhood growing up in Torreon, Mexico and Mexico City, enjoying sports such as soccer and baseball all the while cultivating what would be his passion for lifelong learning. He attended Escuela Inglesa, Colegio Frances de Preparatorio, and in 1948 he graduated with honors from El Centro Universitario de Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in biology followed by the completion of medical school at La Universidad Nacional Autonoma in 1956.

 In 1957 he came to the United States to continue his post-graduate medical education first as an intern at Jefferson Hospital, Roanoke, VA, and then completed his residency training in psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine in 1962. He was Board Certified in Psychiatry and Neurology. Peter continued his career as a director and faculty psychiatrist at John Umstead Hospital, Butner NC, rising to the leadership level of hospital Superintendent. Along the way, he chose to make the United States his permanent home and became a naturalized citizen in 1969. Peter left John Umstead in 1977 to inaugurate the Department of Psychiatry at the new Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. In the 1980s, Peter returned to practice in NC, first at Dorothea Dix Hospital, Raleigh, and then back to John Umstead as Chief Medical Officer where he retired in 1998. Throughout his career, Peter loved the challenge of continuous learning and transferring his knowledge to young medical students and psychiatry residents from both Duke and UNC where he was an associate consulting professor for many years. Peter was a member of the Southern Psychiatric Association, member and past President of the North Carolina Psychiatric Association and a Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

 Peter was an avid aficionado of opera and classical music. A classically trained baritone, in his younger days he sang semi-professionally in Mexico, and participated in musical theatre with the Durham Savoyards. When not caring for his patients, teaching interns and residents or spending time with his family, he relished time spent listening to his music, reading from his vast library of books, and playing chess or dominoes. In his later years after retirement, he spent time cruising around the Caribbean or Europe with his wife, Dot, playing racquetball at the former MetroSport and working out at the Durham YMCA with his best amigo, Marc Amaya. Peter and Marc became lunch fixtures at a few of the local restaurants in Durham like the Bleu Olive and Tonali. In 2016 Peter moved to the Croasdaile Village Community where he enjoyed time with many new friends, Saturday afternoon domino matches, Monday evening ballroom dancing, and trips to the theatre to hear the Metropolitan Opera.

 Peter is survived by his daughter, Nedda Irigaray, sons, Marcos Irigaray (Adrienne Eliason Irigaray) and Chris Verwoerdt (Ashley Hargis Verwoerdt), Grandsons, Julian Irigaray, Gabriel Irigaray, Aubin Irigaray, William Verwoerdt, Lathan Verwoerdt, Walker Verwoerdt and Arthur Verwoerdt, and former spouse Eleanor Durham Portwood. Peter was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Taylor Irigaray and stepson Mark Verwoerdt.  

 A memorial service will be held at the Few Interfaith Chapel, Croasdaile Village, 2600 Croasdaile Farm Pkwy Durham, NC 27705 on Saturday, January 29, 2022. The service will begin at 11:00 AM.

 In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made to Duke University in support of the residency education program within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.  Please mail checks to Duke Health Development, 300 W. Main Street, Ste #1200, Durham, NC 27701 (In the memo line, donors should write: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, In Memory of Peter J. Irigaray, MD)  or visit to make a secure gift online.  

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