As a student nurse, Rose Bayuk helped care for patients from around the world who'd come to Rochester to be seen by doctors at Mayo Clinic. Occasionally, patients expressed their gratitude with small gifts. One well-known patient was so impressed by his care that he even tried to do some recruiting. "Franco took a liking to me, and I got the impression he'd like to take me back to Spain with him as a nurse," she says. (That's one Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain for close to 40 years.)
That was just one of the memories Rose shared during a recent trip to Rochester to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Methodist-Kahler School of Nursing. At 103, she's the school's oldest living graduate. Her diploma, awarded in 1938, was signed and presented to her by the Mayo brothers themselves. "I would see Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie around," Rose says. "They were kind and nice. They treated us students well."
After graduation, Rose returned to her tiny hometown of Buhl on the Minnesota Iron Range and began working at a hospital in nearby Virginia. But soon, adventure called. "Another young nurse had a friend in L.A., and she had jobs for all of us," Rose says. "We'd all meet up on our days off. Then, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and that changed everything." Rose headed back to Minnesota and enlisted in the Army with her sister, Pat, also a graduate of the Methodist-Kahler School.
"Our first assignment was on the Queen Elizabeth," she says. The sisters joined other nurses and thousands of soldiers on the grand ship, making a somber journey to Europe. After that first voyage, Rose and Pat were assigned to the U.S. Army Hospital Ship Thistle, picking up wounded soldiers and caring for them on the way back to the U.S. "We made 11 crossings in two years," Rose says.
After completing her service, Rose married and settled in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Her husband, Ed, became the city manager while Rose worked as a school nurse, in a doctor's office, and as the head of a nursing home. She retired at 62 to have more time for her other interests, including cooking (she still hosts dinner parties) and travel. "Our son Mark worked for the foreign service, and we decided to follow him," Rose says, noting that the couple spent time in Sweden, China, and Hong Kong over the years.
Asked what advice she'd give new nurses, Rose doesn't hesitate: "Have a positive attitude," she says. "You're going into this profession to help people. Approach the patients with a smile and explain what you're there to do. Use your personality to make them comfortable." And asked the secret to a long life, she's also quick to respond: "Be interested all the time," she says. "Observe, read, plan, and organize."
Rose's son offers a different take on his mother's longevity. "She has a mantra that she sometimes recites: 'I serve you before I serve myself,'" Mark tells the White Bear Press. "She does that with everything in her life. That is her secret to a long life."