On that fateful Dallas day of Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was raced to Parkland Hospital with fatal bullet wounds, Dr. Luis Garrigo, a refugee from Cuba, was doing his residency in psychiatry at the hospital.
The next morning, his son Henry Garrigo remembers, a swarm of press converged on the front lawn of their modest home hoping to catch a few words with his father.
Turns out there was a resident in general surgery named James Carrico inside the trauma ward with Kennedy. Carrico, Garrigo, they were confused.
Garrigo realized a life in medicine in his adopted country was to be his legacy.
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For Garrigo, who died Oct. 25 at his Miami home at 93, that period in Dallas was one of regrouping and rebuilding.
Born Dec. 4, 1922, in Havana, Garrigo graduated from Colegio Belen in Havana and studied cardiovascular diseases and medicine at Universidad de la Habana. He opened a practice in Cuba.
In 1960, he fled Cuba to Miami with his wife Estela and their two eldest children. Soon after, they moved to Dallas, sponsored by a refugee group, and Garrigo started over again in the States. The couple had two more children and after a decade in Dallas the family returned to Miami. Here, he opened a private medical practice, served as a staff psychiatrist at the Miami VA Hospital and was an associate professor at the University of Miami medical school until his retirement in 1992.
If I had to choose a word to describe him I’d say ‘gentleman.’ He was definitely the definition. Upright. Always wanting to teach and help people. Very fair. Honest all the time, without a doubt.
Henry Garrigo on his father, Dr. Luis Garrigo.
“Almost all the doctoral candidates at the UM Medical School have to do a psychological rotation and many went through my father,” his son said. “He touched a lot of lives.”
Garrigo’s facility for helping others was ingrained early. His father Luis died and, at 16, in Cuba’s patriarchal society of the era, the young Garrigo, an only child, soon had to assume the head of household position, Henry Garrigo said. “He’s always been in charge of things,” he said.
“If I had to choose one word to describe him I’d say ‘gentleman.’ He was definitely the definition,” Garrigo said. “There is a Jesuit tradition: ‘Creating men for others,’ and that is a motto that applied to Dad. A man for others, very generous.”
Garrigo is also survived by his children Dr. Luis Garrigo, Christy Garrigo Wahn and 15 grandchildren. He was predeceased by daughter Ana Garrigo O’Loane and his wife.
A Mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday at The Church of the Little Flower, 2711 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables.