Death of Dr. William Worrall Mayo
Vigorous enough to travel alone to Japan when he was 88, Dr. William Worrall Mayo suffered a severe blow to his health two years later. He was at his farm, investigating a device to produce fuel from farm waste, when the machine's motor stopped. Impulsively Dr. Mayo reached his left hand inside, thinking he would free a stuck corncob. The inner mechanism, still revolving, struck his hand. His son, Dr. Charles Mayo, said, "He suffered a good deal.... He had had four hits that broke his metacarpals." When the bones did not heal properly, Dr. Charlie was forced to amputate three times, including his father's hand at the wrist.
After the accident, Dr. W.W. Mayo's health steadily declined. He was able to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with Louise on Feb. 2, 1911, though the party was subdued. The Mayos were then the longest-married couple in Olmsted County.
Five weeks later, nearly 92 years old, Dr. Mayo died on March 6, 1911. His attending physician, Dr. Henry Plummer, gave the cause of death as "chronic nephritis." A funeral the next afternoon was conducted by the Rev. W.W. Fowler, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church. Schools, city and county offices, banks and stores closed to honor the doctor during his funeral.
A newspaper eulogy said his death closed "a life of unusual activity in the city of Rochester and state of Minnesota. Few men have passed out of the history of this city surrounded by more loyal friends, a wider acquaintanceship, [or] a more useful life."
The public contributed $5,000 for a bronze statue honoring Dr. Mayo. At the family's suggestion, no one gave more than $1. His son, Dr. William Mayo, wrote the inscription: "A man of hope and forward-looking mind."
This statue now stands in Feith Statuary Park by the Gonda Building.
Summing up the old doctor's life, biographer William Holmes said, "He loved his profession deeply, almost religiously. He believed that a person who had more strength of mind and body owed something to those around him who were less blessed. He learned endlessly, shared what he knew freely with others.... He learned to be a good, if often impatient, teacher.... Most notably, he was the first and greatest teacher of his sons."