• Health & Wellness

    Growing Up Mayo

150th Sesquicentennial LogoThis story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

Now and then, you hear about a conversation you wish you could have been in on. Or at least have been eavesdropping on from a nearby table at the coffee shop. That's the feeling you get when reading Rochester historian Harley Flathers' account of his recent conversation with Dr. Charles H. Mayo II, son of Dr. Charles Mayo and grandson of Dr. Charlie Mayo. Flathers writes about the conversation in his Back and Forth column in the Rochester Post-Bulletin. It seems Flathers got Dr. Mayo talking about growing up at Mayowood and as part of the Mayo family.President Roosevelt with Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo

Dr. Mayo, "now 83 and a resident of St. Croix Falls, Wis.," tells Flathers that it was "his choice" not to join Mayo Clinic back in the 1960s. "I'm not a writer," Dr. Mayo says. "I did my residency at Mayo Clinic, but you're required to do a certain amount of papers. Besides, I would constantly have been compared to my father, who was an excellent surgeon, and Grandpa and Will."

Instead, the good doctor chose a different path and says, "I have no regrets." Dr. Mayo completed his undergraduate studies at St. Olaf College, an internship at the University of Pennsylvania, and practiced in general medicine for many years caring for patients in the Fargo-Moorhead area, according to Flathers.

Though he's been away for many years, Dr. Mayo still has a soft spot for Rochester. "I love visiting Mayowood in the summer," he tells Flathers. "It was a fun place to grow up. Always lots of young folks and parties. Some big names in the entertainment world came — Danny Kaye, The King of Nepal, Lou Gehrig of baseball fame with the Yankees, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt."

Dr. Mayo recalls President Roosevelt's Aug. 8, 1934, visit to Rochester. He says he and his sister Mildred "stood next to a fence near the reviewing stand at Soldiers' Field ... waving little American flags, but we didn't get to shake hands with the president." He had better luck, however, with Gehrig. "Lou Gehrig, who was already diagnosed with ALS, gave my brother Ned and me an autographed baseball," he tells Flathers. But the baseball, too, is only a memory. "Ned pitched me the ball and I hit it out of sight down a steep drop-off, never to be seen again," he says.

There's not a lot of talk of medicine in the column, but Dr. Mayo does recall one piece of medical advice he received from his father. "Retire at 65 — you'll cure more people by retiring then," he quips.

You can read the rest of Flather's column, with talk of the big lake at Mayowood, boyhood days making maple syrup, taking the train to Tucson, Ariz., and more here.