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Our View: ‘He was always interested in who we were’

August 19, 2018
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Gary Peterson was a reporter and cameraman for KROC-TV in 1968. The Rochester station changed owners and was renamed KTTC in 1976.

Fifty years ago in July, Dr. Charles W. Mayo — “Dr. Chuck,” the gregarious and accomplished grandson of W.W. Mayo, whose father and uncle, Drs. Charlie and Will Mayo, made the clinic what it is today — died in a car wreck near Mayowood.

As we wrote on July 31, Dr. Chuck left a huge legacy in his own right, in the medical world and as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. and the United Nations in the 1950s, and he did it his way. Few people remember the Mayo brothers as colorful, convivial people, but that’s how Dr. Chuck is often described, as kind, compassionate and having a quick sense of humor.

We asked readers to share memories they have of Dr. Chuck and that era, and three responded — a nurse who worked with him at Saint Marys Hospital, a Minnesota senator who crossed paths in the coffee room at the Plummer Building long ago, and a TV journalist who was working on Sunday, July 28, 1968, when reports came in of a car crash near Mayowood.

Here are their memories.

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I was a student nurse at Saint Marys Hospital, in operating room nurse training and being the circulating student nurse, as well as folding linen in the linen room and doing other less interesting work. Too much stress for a young student nurse.

Christmas vacation 1947 was on the horizon. I was thinking, “This is it, I won’t be back after vacation.” The day before we left for vacation, Dr. Mayo arrived in Operating Room 4 with a bag of beautifully wrapped gifts. Something for everyone, including me: a bottle of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass perfume.

Of course we were all thrilled with gifts from our Santa Claus, Dr. Charles Mayo.

Years later, at Saint Marys, I was caring for a friend of Dr. Mayo’s. In came Dr. Mayo for a visit. I was flitting around, trying to have everything in order. Later, when Dr. Mayo was leaving, he thanked me for the excellent nursing care I gave his friend. He said, “You reminded me of a flea on a hot skillet!”

Who could ever forget Dr. Charlie Mayo?

— Irene Ryan Weis, Rochester, St. Mary’s School of Nursing, Class of 1948

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I started my Mayo career as a laboratory technician in the Section of Microbiology. We were located on the third floor of the Plummer Building. Dr. Mayo was also on the third floor in the Historical Area. Pictures of famous people adorned the walls of his elegant office and on the walls of the secretarial area outside his office.

Amid all of that assumed status and privilege, Dr. Mayo frequently joined the micro techs for coffee in the third-floor Plummer coffee room. He was always interested in who we were, what we were working on, our outside interests, and loved to talk about the issues of the day. He was not above immersing himself in the lives and interests of individuals well below him in the Mayo social strata.

He was a very nice man. It was a very sad day when we learned we had lost him.

— Sen. Dave Senjem, Rochester

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Fifty years ago, I was a young reporter for Channel 10 in Rochester and my duty was to produce an event to fill out the weekend newscast. Little did I know that within a few minutes, I would be taken into one of the biggest stories of the year.

The newsroom received a call from the police department about an automobile accident. I was dispatched to the scene near Salem Road. I immediately determined that the accident involved someone important due to all the law enforcement and Mayo officials at the scene. I was standing quite near and could see that the auto had rolled into a ditch just off the road. Inside was Dr. Chuck Mayo and he was deceased.

The next few hours were a blur as officials and I attempted to get our respective jobs done. There was a good cooperative effort between the Post Bulletin and KROC (as it was known then) as we started to write and film the story. We agreed not to show any pictures of the crash out of courtesy to the family, and after all these years I feel good about that.

The entire week was filled with news media trying to get sidebars. I will never forget the day.

— Gary Peterson, Spring Valley

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