James Robert Irwin
October 11, 1940 – June 30, 2020
James Robert Irwin, M.D., 79, passed away with his family at his side at his home in Moses Lake on June 30, 2020.
Dr. Irwin was born Oct. 11, 1940, to J. Walter Irwin and Nelle Moore Irwin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. James graduated from Miami High. Amoret, Missouri. He attended Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. He then attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, Kansas. He interned at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane, Washington, and then went to Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, for a surgical residency. During the summer months he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Northern Idaho to pay for his college education.
In the summer of 1961, Jim was introduced to Frances at a picnic at Manito Presbyterian Church. It was truly a love created by God at that first meeting. After Frances graduated from the School of Nursing at Deaconess Hospital and Whitworth College, they married in Sequim, Washington, on June 12, 1964.
The young Irwins’ first summer was at Spyglass Look Out in North Central Idaho. They then moved to Kansas City where Jim continued his medical school education. Between Jim’s junior and senior years of medical school, the couple served a summer in mission in Pokwo, Ethiopia. This cemented their desire to serve others as God had called them to serve. After internship and residency, Dr. Irwin served two years as the chief of surgery at U.S. Navy Hospital, Whidbey, Oak Harbor, Washington.
The couple applied for overseas medical mission service with the United Presbyterian Church USA and went to Ganta, Liberia, for seven months. They then went to Kenya. Due to changing times they were not able serve in the mission as planned and returned to the United States. Dr. Irwin chose to open a surgical practice in Colville, Washington, where he served for 13 years. He was one of the founding members of Northeast Washington Medical Clinic.
Nearly 32 years ago Dr. Irwin moved to Moses Lake, Washington, and opened Irwin Surgical Group. He quickly became appreciated for his surgical skills and his leadership in the Central Basin. Throughout his career he cared deeply for his patients whether that meant meeting a rancher after hours for a few stitches or praying by a patient’s bedside at 3 a.m. after emergency surgery. His patients had a great appreciation for the care he gave. At age 62 he was called up as a Navy surgeon to go to Iraq as a Naval Reserve Officer. He retired as a captain after 40 years of military service in January 2004.
Dr. Irwin retired from active surgical services in 2013. His last years at Samaritan Healthcare he served as chief medical officer. His final years he served as a consultant with the Office of Social Security Disability,
Although always dedicated to his patients and family, he served his community through Kiwanis, the Chamber of Commerce and Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation. His hobby was his Arabian horses and endurance rides. He was a member of the American Endurance Ride Association and rode approximately 4,000 miles in competition. Dr. Irwin also enjoyed riding his motorcycle. For his 70th birthday, he and his son Paul rode the Four Corners Tour of the USA. They rode 11,000 miles in 21 days, finishing the four corners in 15 days.
Dr. Irwin was very active in the Stevens County Medical Society, the Grant Adams County Medical Society and Washington State Medical Association. He was a fellow in the American College of Surgeons. He served as ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church, serving locally, within the Presbytery, the Synod of Alaska Northwest and the General Assembly of the denomination. He was an active member and elder of First Presbyterian Church, Othello.
Dr. Irwin was an original member of the Moses Lake Medical Team which began to make medical missions trips to Nigeria in 2008. He completed 14 trips to Nigeria, providing surgical services to hundreds of patients in need. He enjoyed teaching nurses and physicians improved surgical and medical skills.
Dr. Irwin is preceded in death by his parents J. Walter Irwin and Nelle Moore Irwin and his four brothers Dr. Glenn M. Irwin, Rev. John W. Irwin, Rev. Dave P. Irwin and Bill H. Irwin. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Frances D Irwin; sons Timothy R. Irwin and wife Jenny Irwin and Paul E. Irwin and wife Kristine Irwin; grandchildren Shelby and Kyle Swanstrom, Andrea Irwin, Craig Irwin, Zackery and Mallory Friedbauer, Joseph and Midori Friedbauer, Dane and Jazzmin Friedbauer and Kiah Irwin. Two “sons” joined the family: Nyeswa Jarboe, originally from Liberia, Africa, and Stacey A. Scott. He has three great-grandchildren. He has numerous nieces and nephews, and two living sisters-in-law.
Memorials can be made to Moses Lake Medical Team, Umpqua Bank, Moses Lake; Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Ministries, 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, KY 40202-1396 or Samaritan Foundation, 801 E. Wheeler Rd. Moses Lake, WA 98837
Interment will be at Tahoma National Cemetery, Thursday, July 9. A virtual memorial service will be held at a date to be announced. Please check the Kayser Chapel of Memories web page as to when the memorial service will be available for virtual access.
A police officer-escorted parade will be held Thursday, July 9 at 6:30 a.m. on West Broadway Avenue as Dr. Irwin’s casket leaves Moses Lake. The community is invited to stand along Broadway Avenue to bid Dr. Irwin a final farewell.
Please express your thoughts and memories at www.kayserschapel.com. Arrangements are under the care of Kayser’s Chapel of Memories of Moses Lake, Washington.