A Pint of Pickles, A Ton of Tribute

The framed handwritten recipe for pickles adorns a wall of Warren and Marilyn Bateman’s home in the hills of Maggie Valley, North Carolina. It was part of a birthday card for Marilyn and includes a scrawled signature below the pickling process. The recipe has become one of the Batemans’ most treasured gifts.

The Batemans say they’re blessed by the values and memory of Sister Generose Gervais, the longtime administrator of Mayo Clinic Hospital, Rochester — Saint Marys Campus. The iconic pickle recipe from Sister Generose is a reminder of her compassion, respect and excellence.

“She was a delight,” Marilyn says with a smile as she recalls Sister Generose, who passed away in 2016. “Always wanting you to stop to chat and have a candy from her candy dish or help her make pickles.”

A Special Visit to a Special Place

Warren and Marilyn grew up in small Minnesota towns. Warren lived in Plainview, Minnesota, about 19 miles away from the world-renowned medical institution in Rochester, where he made one of his most cherished childhood memories in 1934 — before Marilyn was born.

In that humid August, Warren — then 11 — joined his father to travel in their Studebaker from Plainview to Rochester to see President Franklin D. Roosevelt honor Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo.

“I was very small, so I was able to wriggle into the front row,” Warren says. “To see the president — that was a big deal. And for the president to come here, it was special.”

Over the years, Warren came to view Mayo Clinic as a special place. He fondly remembers many automobiles around Central Park in downtown Rochester on his irregular visits to sell cabbage or other farm-fresh goods.

“When I was a kid, they didn’t allow local residents to park there, so I’d walk by and see the license plates from all different places,” Warren says. “It was incredible. You could take a trip around the United States just by walking the block.”

Patience and Understanding

Warren served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, eventually becoming a commissioned officer and drawing an assignment on the fleet admiral’s staff near the end of the fighting. Following the war, he served more than 20 years as a reservist while becoming a successful lawyer.

Marilyn grew up nearby in Austin, Minnesota. In 1954, she came to Mayo Clinic for three years of nurses training because of the reputation of the Methodist-Kahler School of Nursing.

After graduating in 1957, she worked with some of Mayo Clinic’s most well-known general and thoracic surgeons at the time — O.T. “Jim” Clagett, M.D.; William Charles “Chuck” Mayo, M.D., the grandson of Dr. William Worrall Mayo and son of Dr. Charlie Mayo; and Philip Bernatz, M.D.

“They were not only fine surgeons, but fine gentlemen,” Marilyn says. “I loved working with them.”

Later, she worked for a Mayo Clinic-backed research project and then as the first nurse certified in pre- and postoperative waiting areas as well as recovery areas for same-day procedures.

“I felt that if a patient came to the preop waiting area before surgery, they needed somebody with compassion, somebody with understanding,” Marilyn says. “I’ve cried with my patients, I’ve laughed with my patients and I’ve given hugs to patients that needed it.”

She retired in 1997, the same year she and Warren wed — on Valentine’s Day no less.

Encounters of Excellence

Warren didn’t return to Mayo Clinic until long after he had retired when a rash developed while they were living in Miami.

Dissatisfied with his care locally, Warren returned to Rochester, Minnesota, for a second opinion. The initial diagnosis was overturned, and he and the staff at Mayo Clinic drew up an individualized care plan for his needs.

“That was when I started coming to Mayo,” Warren says. “I was always pleased that they told me the truth, and that’s why I kept coming back.”

Giving Back

At Christmastime, the Batemans give to the Poverello Fund, an endowment that helps offset a portion of medical expenses for patients receiving care at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus. Since its founding in 1983, the fund has helped more than 13,000 patients.

Marilyn began giving to the fund when she contributed a percentage of the sale of her house. That drew a visit from Sister Generose, who wanted to learn more about Marilyn’s intent.

The Batemans worked with the Department of Development to recognize their gifts to capital projects, research and the Mayo Clinic Model of Care in a unique way.

“I was over in Saint Marys and saw all those statues for the sisters, and there was nothing visible in the Gonda Building for the nurses,” Warren says. “I wanted a person, when they came here, to think of a nurse or the nurses that treated them.”

The Batemans respectfully declined to have the atrium named in their honor. Rather, they advocated for naming the space for Mayo nurses — known as the Mayo Nurses Atrium in the Gonda Building. The Mayo Nurses Atrium is the largest-known physical space named in honor of the nursing profession at any medical center.

Two inspirational pieces come into view in the atrium.

First is Forever Caring by Gloria Tew, dedicated in 2003 to honor Mayo Clinic nursing professionals of the past, present and future through the schools at Mayo Clinic’s two affiliated hospitals. The bronze sculpture portrays nurses in practice, education and research through a nurse anesthetist, a graduate nurse and a nurse with a patient’s chart.

Second, Dale Chihuly’s untitled glass sculpture hangs in full view one level above. The 6,000-pound piece spans 45 feet and comprises 1,375 pieces of glass among the 13 chandeliers.

“At Mayo Clinic, you feel welcome,” Warren says. “Everyone treats you with a smile. The doctors, the nurses, they all say, ‘Is there anything else bothering you?’ They want to treat you. They’re interested in you.”

Capital Needs

Most recently, the Batemans, who are recognized by Mayo Clinic as Philanthropic Partners, recognized the need to continue advancing surgical projects at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus and supported new hybrid operating rooms.

The rooms are of vital importance because of the increase in patients who need complex surgery. Across Mayo Clinic’s three campuses and health system, Mayo Clinic performs about 130,000 surgeries each year, with many of the most challenging cases handled at the Saint Marys Campus.

The surgical suites are nearly 1,000 square feet each to accommodate new technology and robotics that will not fit into existing operating rooms. They also let more specialists work simultaneously. This allows Mayo Clinic surgeons to help patients who need more-complex surgeries or are at higher risk for complications. Additionally, the rooms allow surgeons to pursue the best practices in robotic, hybrid and surgical innovations.

True to the Batemans’ philosophy of declining recognition, their support for these rooms is given in honor of Sister Generose.

“She had such a presence,” Marilyn says. “She worked so hard for each and every patient and staff member.”

And for the Batemans, Mayo Clinic’s reputation comes from the people who work there.

“Mayo Clinic is truly a part of our lives, and it always feels like family,” Marilyn says. “We are treated by staff like family. It’s like coming home.” ■

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