Dr. Hugh Butt of Rochester, who was the last link between the Mayo brothers and the current staff of the famed medical facility in Rochester, died of natural causes after a fall on Aug. 16. He was 98.
Butt, who began his residency at Mayo in 1934, became a gastroenterologist, researcher, physician, teacher and administrator.
He was a Minnesota pioneer in his specialty. During his residency, he discovered that vitamin K stopped bleeding in patients with jaundice, previously a fatal condition.
His work changed the practice of hepatology, the branch of medicine that incorporates the study and management of disorders of the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas.
Dr. Glenn Forbes, CEO of Mayo Clinic Rochester, said in a news release that Butt "brought a mixture of appreciation for our history with the drive for continuing the legacy into success in tomorrow's world."
Forbes said Butt was the last assistant to work directly with William Mayo, M.D., a founder of the clinic, and one who benefited from Butt's vitamin K research.
In 1997, Butt recalled how Dr. Mayo, who was jaundiced after surgery to treat cancer, thanked him for saving his life.
Over the years, Butt's inquiries into blood coagulation later made possible open heart surgery and organ transplants.
Butt grew up in Norfok, Va., and at age 23, graduated from the Medical School of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
During World War II, he served as a Navy doctor on a hospital ship in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he returned to Mayo and became the first chairman of the division of gastroenterology.
"It was fortunate that he chose to spend his life at Mayo, for the patients and colleagues, who he served," said Dr. Robert Waller, a retired Mayo staff member, calling Butt "creative" and "inquisitive about medicine."
Waller said Butt "excelled" in the examining room, the research laboratory, the classroom and in administration.
Butt led several national medical associations, including as the American College of Physicians, for which he served as president in the early 1970s.
Outside of medicine, he made metal sculptures out of found items, usually figures, said his granddaughter, Amanda Beeler of Wynnewood, Pa.
"He loved showing his art to kids," said his granddaughter. "He loved to hear what kids thought about his art."
His work has been exhibited in Rochester, Minneapolis, New York and Texas.
After retiring in 1979, he was a successful fundraiser for Mayo. Until 2006, he gave a popular lecture to first-year medical students.
"He never stopped thinking about ways to help Mayo Clinic," said Waller.
His wife, Mary died in 1990. His son, Charles died in 1984.
He is survived by three daughters, Lucy Butsch of Buffalo, N.Y., Selby Beeler of Rochester, Minn., and Frances Cohn of Telluride, Colo.; seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned for Sept. 20 in Rochester.