William O'Neil Erwin

October 08, 1925 - May 03, 2017

William O'Neil Erwin 1925 - 2017

Dr. William O’Neil Erwin, Psychoanalyst, died at the age of 91 in his home after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Born in San Antonio, Texas as “Billy,” he was the only son of Claude Benard (C. B.) and Alma Hurley Erwin.  In adulthood, after being President of an insurance company in San Antonio, he decided to pursue psychoanalytic training in New York City.

          Bill received his Certifications as a Psychoanalyst and in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the mid-sixties from the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP), trained by Theodor Reik and Martin S. Bergmann, among others, Certifications in Psychoanalysis from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP) and Psychotherapy from the American Board of Psychotherapy, thereafter being awarded a Diplomate in Psychoanalysis. Conducting a successful private practice in Greenwich Village, he became immersed in psychoanalytic research, East-West philosophy, metaphysics, dream research at Maimondes with Dr. Stanley Krippner, and early work with Dr. Timothy Leary.  While shunning the spotlight himself, his Village home became a gathering place for other pioneers, such as Alan Watts, Jean Houston, many of whom gave their first public presentations under his gracious hospitality. 

          In 1972, he met Gwyneth (nee Kendra) Kerr Erwin, who was Minister of the Religious Science Church of Greenwich Village, and after one hours-long date at “Beef and Brew,” they married ten days later, beginning their true love story of 44 years, and re-locating to southern California a year later.  They gave birth at home to their son, Briton William in 1974, ushering in the joy of fatherhood to Bill at the age of 48, and motherhood to Gwyn. That joy only increased with the births of their daughters, Dawn Alura in 1976, and Autumn Alisa in 1983. They completed their family when they became parents of 11-year-old Jeremy Elman Cavaterra that same year.

          Bill’s love of family was never eclipsed by his professional life.  His private practice lasted for a total of 47 years, and in his unassuming way he continued to be a trailblazer in the psychoanalytic field.  He served variously as Professor, Dean of Admissions, Dean of Students, Training and Supervising Analyst, as well as Chair of the Department of Psychoanalysis at the California Graduate Institute (CGI) in Los Angeles.  He was one of the first to work with AIDS patients as the epidemic took hold, Transgendered patients (and on the Board of the Erickson Educational Foundation), and institutionalized patients who were thought to be “unanalyzable.” He was a pivotal co-founder of the Psychoanalytic Center of California (PCC), the Transpersonal Institute in northern California, the Association for Past-Life Research and Therapies (APRT), and the southern California Birth Center, an innovative facility for home and birthing center births.  Thirty-eight years ago, he and Dr. Larry Hedges founded the Newport Psychoanalytic Center. Throughout the years that followed, Bill served as Director, President, Dean, Training and Supervising Analyst, and Senior Faculty, teaching courses on Freud and his followers, Object Relations, Dreams, Infant Research, Case Conferences, Transference and Countertransference.

          Bill closed his practice four years ago, as Alzheimer’s claimed more and more of his brilliant mind seven years after his diagnosis.  Even then, he continued to contribute to the medical and psychological field by being a subject in FDA expedited protocols, able to detail to researchers the intricate experience of “losing his mind,” as usual finding even his disease of interest.  In the last four years, he was cared for at home by his village of Gwyn, his devoted children, family member, Royden Vigilance, who gifted so much of Bill’s care, and companioned by his “babies,” dogs Whisper, Dylan, and Nugget.  He leaves a rich legacy to this world, and to his wife, Dr. Gwyneth Kerr Erwin (Psychoanalyst), his children Briton William Erwin, Dawn Erwin Leibovitz, Autumn Erwin Valcalda, Jeremy Elman Cavaterra, sons-in-law, Adam Leibovitz and Tyson Valcalda, and grandchildren Liam O’Neil Dunphy, Bella, Elias, and Ozi Leibovitz, and Olivia Valcalda, and a lifetime of colleagues, students, and friends.      

William O'Neil Erwin

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If ever asked, I would refer anyone to them as I would have total confidence that they were getting the best attention in their time of need--as I had. —A.F.