Christopher Courtney Gates, MD

Christopher Courtney Gates, M.D., (Chris), of Concord, Massachusetts, died on Saturday, January 30, 2021, at Mass General Brigham in Boston, Massachusetts. He was 87.

Son of the late Frances Crozier and Percival Taylor Gates, he was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on June 7, 1933. The youngest of three boys, he passed his childhood with his brothers Gregory (Greg) and Percival (Val) Gates tinkering with engines, lighting firecrackers, shooting B.B. guns, and sailing off Vinalhaven island in Maine, where the family spent their summers.

In his teens, he moved to Suffield, Connecticut. He attended The Loomis School (now Loomis Chaffee School) in Windsor, Connecticut, graduating in 1951, and did a post-graduate year at Harrow School in Harrow, London, England. At Harrow it thrilled him to meet Old Harrovian Sir Winston Churchill and to set the school distance record for throwing a cricket ball. On breaks between terms, he toured Europe with friends in a dilapidated van. Later, he would fondly recall camping misadventures, climbing through a youth hostel window after breaking curfew, and overindulging at a Danish smorgasbord.

From 1952 to 1956 he attended Yale University, graduating with a B.A. in History of the Arts and Letters. At Yale he rowed lightweight crew and joined the Elihu senior society. Appointed a Scholar of the House his senior year, he wrote a paper on Victorian art critic John Ruskin.

After graduation, he returned to Loomis to teach English before joining the U.S. Navy in 1957. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade in his role as operations officer on the destroyer tender U.S.S. Bryce Canyon. His vivid memories of a tour of the Pacific include Subic Bay in the Philippines teeming with life, the challenge of persuading his crew back on board after a raucous night of shore leave, and islanders gathering at a seawall in Okinawa for a fireworks display commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima.

It was during this period of his life that he wrestled over which path to follow in terms of a profession. Steeped in the humanities, he also believed in science and the power of faith, and was thinking about a career in the ministry. Instead, he opted for psychiatry. After the Navy, he took a job at Yale as a freshman counselor and started a college-prep tutoring business; at the same time, he took classes that qualified him to apply to medical school.
In 1961 he enrolled in the Yale School of Medicine, where, in the midst of his studies, he met Smith College alumna Helen Hardcastle. They married in 1963 and moved to Ohio in 1965, where he interned at University Hospitals in Cleveland. In 1966 the couple moved to Brookline, Massachusetts for him to do his residency in psychiatry at Boston’s Massachusetts Mental Health Center. The hospital appointed him Chief Resident in 1968 – a proud moment that resulted in his mentoring a group of psychiatrists with whom he remained friends for the rest of his life.

A fellowship in child psychiatry followed before he embarked on his true life’s work in1971: private practice. He treated patients in his home office for more than 45 years, healing many and providing comfort and reassurance as they grappled with their illnesses. He retired in 2018 at age 85. At the start of his career in private practice, Dr. Francis D. Moore, surgeon-in-chief at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Mass General Brigham), hired him to study the psychological trauma suffered by breast cancer survivors. Dr. Gates produced a number of papers on the subject, as well as on the psychic damage of cancer in general, and joined the staff of several city hospitals.

He lived in Brookline for over 50 years before moving to Concord, Massachusetts. He stayed active in the church, serving on the Vestry of Trinity Church, Boston and performing psychiatric evaluations of candidates for ministry for Episcopal Dioceses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He enjoyed a membership in the Thursday Clubmen’s group and served on the board of Brookline’s High Street Hill Association. A lover of tools and hardware stores, he would putter endlessly in his home workshop or his boathouse in Maine devising improvements to make life easier. He lined the walkway to his home office with special planks to keep his patients from slipping on icy days. He designed, built, and patented a marine outhaul system that enables picnickers to moor their boats offshore and haul them in or out using pulleys.

He exuded geniality; few were immune to his charm. In 1960, E. Moore, the captain of the U.S.S. Bryce Canyon, wrote that Christopher Gates was “above all, a gentleman.” A gentle man, and a kind one who touched people’s hearts. He will be missed.

Dr. Gates is predeceased by his wife, Helen Gates, and his brothers Gregory Gates and Percival Gates. He is survived by his children Sarah Gates, M.D., John Gates, and Holly Russell, his grandchildren Rebecca, Chris, and Francisca Feist, Jack and Grace Gates, and Liam, Aram, and Maggie Russell, his daughter-in-law Jennifer Gates, his sons-in-law Frank Feist and William Russell, three beloved nieces, and one beloved nephew.

A small funeral for immediate family members will be held on Friday, February 26, at 2:00 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The service is virtually accessible via livestream through YouTube and the church Facebook page.This summer his family will bury him in a plot in Vinalhaven overlooking the Fox Island Thoroughfare. A memorial service is planned for the future at Trinity Church, Boston.