Dr. Peter Christopher Gazes of Charleston, the first board-certified cardiologist in South Carolina and founder and director of the cardiovascular division with the Medical University of South Carolina, died Tuesday. He was 97.
He was born Oct. 10, 1921 in St. Matthews, but his family moved to Charleston when he was six months old. His father was a Greek immigrant and opened Gazes Grocery Store at Spring and Norman streets near the Crosstown, which later moved to Cannon and King, according to a 1996 profile in The Post and Courier.
The family lived on Spring Street near the Ashley River Bridge and Gazes, the youngest of five children, was a student at Mitchell Elementary School in the mornings and Greek school in the afternoons, as well as the High School of Charleston, where he played varsity basketball.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston and in 1944, he was the first honor graduate of MUSC’s College of Medicine. He then joined the Navy for 18 months of service.
According to the 1996 profile, while Gazes was practicing cardiology at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1949, Dr. Robert Walton, head of MUSC’s pharmacology division at the time, lured him back to South Carolina with the observation that there was currently no cardiology specialist in the state. Before the age of 30, Gazes returned to his childhood home as a first in his field.
He worked at the MUSC hospital, opened a private practice, traveled to clinics in nearby cities, and in 1961, established the cardiology division with MUSC.
The Peter C. Gazes Cardiology Society was founded in 1980 on the university hospital campus. It is now known as the Gazes Cardiac Research Institute, not far from where he played baseball with neighborhood teams when he was a kid.
Outside of the hundreds of medical papers and dozens of book chapters he published over the decades, Gazes played a good deal of golf. He was a member of the Country Club of Charleston for over 60 years and was affectionately known as “Peter Putter” or “Peter the Putter” on the links.
A 1989 story in The Post and Courier gives a fine example of his quick wit: While attending an event to kick off a fundraising campaign for an endowment for the Gazes Cardiac Research Institute, he was presented the Lt. Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service from then Lt. Gov. Nick A. Theodore.
In response, Gazes mentioned how he had met Theodore years before.
“It was the first time two Greeks met and didn’t open a restaurant,” he joked.
He is survived by his wife, Athena Critikos Gazes; daughters, Hope Gazes Grayson (Michael) of Charleston, Catherine Gazes Cline (Ty) of Charleston and Joanne Gazes Ellison (Blount) of Mount Pleasant; 11 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.
The family will receive friends from 4-6 p.m. Monday at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Charleston, followed by a Trisagion Service.
A funeral service will be held at noon Tuesday at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, with interment to follow at Live Oak Memorial Gardens.
Arrangements by Stuhr’s Downtown Chapel of Charleston.