The Obit For Austin McCarthy

Dr. A.M. McCarthy was U.S. senator's brother

The retired Willmar, Minn., surgeon passed up a pro baseball career to be a doctor. He once called his brother, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, the "smartest man I ever knew."

By BEN COHEN, Star Tribune

June 26, 2008 - 9:32 PM

Dr. Austin (Mac) McCarthy of Willmar, Minn., a retired surgeon and former star baseball pitcher for St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., honed his baseball skills with his brother, former U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

Austin McCarthy, who served several hospitals in and around Willmar, died June 18 at his Willmar home. He was 90. He had suffered from congestive heart failure.

Sen. McCarthy, whose run for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination and stand against the Vietnam War toppled Lyndon Johnson's White House, grew up in Watkins, Minn., where he and his brother played a lot of baseball.

Sen. McCarthy, who died in 2005, wrote a poem called "My Brother" that referred to their playing catch together. The two played hockey and baseball together at Litchfield High School and at St. John's.

Dr. McCarthy's daughter, Mary Beth Yarrow of Willmar, said he once said his senator brother "was the smartest man I ever knew."

McCarthy was sought by the Detroit Tigers as a pitcher, but stayed the course to become a doctor. He played semi-professional baseball in Minnesota cities such as Warroad, Watertown and Little Falls, and in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to earn money for medical school.

He helped St. John's win two conference championships in the mid-1930s, said his daughter, a documentary filmmaker and the former wife of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.

McCarthy graduated from St. John's, where he studied philosophy and chemistry, in 1938, and from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1942.

He interrupted his residency at the old Minneapolis General Hospital to serve as a Navy doctor on a hospital ship in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he completed his residency.

He moved to Willmar in 1948 and was the first physician with a surgical specialty to serve in the Willmar area, said Dr. Willard Peterson of Willmar.

"Mac was an excellent orthopedic surgeon," said Peterson, a former clinic partner.

Arlene Grothem of Willmar, a patient, said he was "very compassionate and very caring."

Grothem, who was born with a hip defect, had limped much of her life, until McCarthy surgically replaced her worn hip joint. "He took the limp away," she said.

He served as a volunteer physician at most high school athletic events in Willmar and was chief of staff and surgery for many years at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar.

In 1989, he was awarded the Harold S. Diehl Award for his professional contributions to the university's medical school, the university and the community. And in 2008, he received St. John's University Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his daughter Mary Beth, he is survived by his wife of 64 years, Muriel; five other daughters, Patty Schwarzkopf of Santa Maria, Calif.; Julie Napoleon of Van Nuys, Calif.; Maggie Frericks of Rock Springs, Wyo.; Jane Urman of Belgrade, Minn., and Katie Ingram of Reno, Nev.; a sister, Marian Enright of Walnut Creek, Calif.; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.