Robert Rhyle Sawtell, 92, of Rochester, Minnesota, passed away in the presence of his family on Monday, September 25th at his residence in Charter House.
Bob was born in Cantril, Iowa, on August 12, 1925, to Paul and Florence Sawtell. As the first-born son of a minister, he lived in many small towns in Iowa, Nebraska, and California.
Bob accelerated his completion of high school and departed for college so soon that his mother had to pick up his diploma. He attended Wheaton College for one semester before joining a large group of fellow students who all enlisted the same day. He served in the US Navy as an officer with the rank of ensign until his unit was mustered out at war's end. Thanks to the GI bill, he was able to pursue a degree in medicine.
While attending medical school at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, he met a nursing student, Grace Wickham, through Intervarsity Fellowship. They were married on June 20, 1949, and continued to live in Omaha until Bob completed his medical internship. In 1952, Bob and Grace moved to Jeffers, Minnesota, where he served as a small-town doctor in general practice. .
The family of four moved on to Worthington, Minnesota. Bob joined the Worthington Clinic and practiced family medicine, with a focus on pediatrics.
Now a family of six, in 1964 Bob began a fellowship in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After completing this residency, he was asked to join the staff, serving 25 years before retiring. He was well-loved by patients and co-workers alike. One of Bob's colleagues said, "Dr. Sawtell has contributed significantly to Mayo by being the perfect gentleman of a doctor. He never lost his temper, and he could always pull you out of a dark corner of depression by using humorous anecdotes, which he was the master in telling. He will always be remembered for his skill in problem-solving in a realistic, innovative way."
Bob enjoyed camping, fishing, traveling, golf, and sailing. He loved music and enjoyed playing trumpet and trombone. He was very dedicated to his family and church and served as an elder and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Rochester which is now Autumn Ridge Church. Bob and Grace committed themselves to living at Charter House in Rochester in 2002 and have been full-time residents since 2007.
Bob is survived by his wife of 68 years, Grace Sawtell. He is also survived by his four children, Daniel (Karen) Sawtell of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Beth (Bob) Faraone of Grand Marais, Minnesota, Susan (Woody) Roland of Rochester, Minnesota, and Mark (Kat) Sawtell of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He is also survived by his two brothers, Rod (Twyla) Sawtell and Dave (Mim) Sawtell. He was the loving grandfather of six and great-grandfather of eight.
A special thanks to his caring medical team, including Dr. Luke Hafdahl; Lexie Biederman, NP; the Charter House staff, and Mayo Hospice.
There will be a visitation time from 10:00 to 10:45 AM on Thursday, September 28, in the Timothy Chapel at Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester. The funeral service will be held at 11:00 AM, followed by a light luncheon. There will be a private internment thereafter at Oakwood East Cemetery in Rochester, Minnesota.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Ironwood Springs Christian Camp, 7291 County Road 6 SW, Stewartville, MN 55976. The camp was founded by Bob Bardwell, who received long-term treatment from Dr. Bob after suffering an accident resulting in quadriplegia. The camp now serves over 22,000 people a year, including the largest wheelchair sports camp in the USA; and Operation Welcome Home, founded in 2008, now serving over 1000 military families.
To leave a special memory please visit www.ranfranzandvinefh.com
Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes 5421 Royal Place NW Rochester, MN 55901 (507) 289-3600
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I am thankful to have met Dr. Sawtell at Mayo, when I happened to meet him one time when he was a patient! I recognized his name, and asked if he had practiced medicine at Jeffers, MN, and he had! I was about 8 years old then and I remember how much my mother appreciated him as a doctor, in our small home town, in SW MN, of Jeffes, MN. Blessed be his memory!
Dear Aunt Grace and family,
One of my memories of Uncle Bob is when Marvin, Ruth, Mary Ann and Sheila came up to Worthington, MN to visit. There was something about that house that I just loved and visiting my cousins. I ended up having a cold sore and Uncle Bob was able to prescribe some medicine for it and I thought how cool is that my Uncle is a doctor. Aunt Grace was always cooking something wonderful to eat. I also enjoyed our family visits to the Rochester house. I remember sleeping in the living room and hearing the coo-coo clock during the night and looking forward to something yummy for breakfast. Also, we would watch some wrestling on the T.V. and listen to the piano play. I will never forget those wonderful times with the Sawtell family. Lovingly your niece, Mary Ann
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