Video Password: Passion


Peter's Obituary 

Dr. Abram Peter Gary

April 15, 1924 – Sept. 18, 2016


A force of nature has flown away. Brilliant, creative, opinionated, literate, stubborn. Loved by so many. Raised in Budapest, he was a student in conducting and composing at the Franz Liszt Music Academy when, along with his mother, they were brutally taken by the Nazi’s in 1941; days later, his mother was murdered while saving his life.

Three years later, having lived through the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, Peter was liberated on his 21 st birthday by the British forces. 

Peter received his Ph.D in Ethnomusicology from the Sorbonne. He composed music for the rest of his life, including his greatest piece, A 20th Century Passion, which premieres October 17, in Jerusalem. He never heard or saw the piece performed; he will be at the performance through the eyes and ears of the conductor, Barak Tal. He began A 20th Century Passion while attending Bach’s B Minor Mass at the Carmel Bach Festival. Over the course of 3 years, he composed the entire score and the libretto.

A vital person, he transformed himself numerous times. Immigration to the US in 1950 proved a challenge to a young composer. A short stint in Hollywood at MGM ended when the studio went under. He had a variety of business ventures. Eventually, after obtaining an MD, he went into the rehab business. Along the way, he had a son, Alex, with his first wife, Alice. Both survive him.

He taught extension courses at UCLA where he was a visiting professor in the music department teaching graduate classes in Ethnomusicology. He also co-taught Literature and Lessons of the Holocaust at UVIC with Dr. Phyllis Senese and Doug Beardsley.

In 1991, Dr. Gary immigrated to Victoria, BC, ultimately founding the Victoria Holocaust Remembrance and Education Society. He began an indefatigable commitment to the education of young people on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast about the evils of racism and anti-Semitism, ultimately assembling an “army” of over 66,000 young people. For 13 years he spoke at Youth Combatting Intolerance, a program sponsored by the Victoria Police Department and run by Sgt. Paul Brookes.

His friend Bill Wright and the gang will hold regular vigils in his honor at Murchie’s and John’s Place.

We all thought he was immortal, that he could overcome anything. We were wrong. If you are so inclined, please donate blood to replace the many pints that were generously given to Peter the last four weeks of his life.

Peter is survived by his wife, Judy Estrin, his adopted family – Michael, Denise, Matt and Mark Vaughan, his army of “kids”, Alex Gardos and friends around the world. Labradors Nick and Gilda miss licking his knee.

Donations to support the documentary and educational legacy program related to A 20 the Century Passion may be sent to: or sent/made payable to: ETC Society, 4412 Wilkinson Road, Victoria, BC V8Z 0C1.


The broadcast of A 20th Century Passion is Monday, October 17, 3pm Cinecenta Theatre, UVIC. $20 ticket at the door.