Leon 'Doc' Julius Lazarus, 79, Essex pharmacist,

January 14, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Leon "Doc" Julius Lazarus, a longtime Essex pharmacist and community volunteer, died Monday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center of complications from a fall in his Essex home. He was 79.

A fixture at an old-fashioned neighborhood pharmacy for more ++ than 30 years, Doc Lazarus, as locals called him, is remembered as an extraordinarily generous man who helped organize several community efforts, but was reluctant to accept credit for his work.

"I'll never forget his kindness, his generosity," said Richard N. Banz, who recalled Mr. Lazarus coming to the drugstore at 3 a.m. one day to fill a prescription for Mr. Banz' 4-year-old son. "That was 25 years ago, before we had 24-hour pharmacies," said Mr. Banz, who retired in 1992 as assistant principal of Kenwood High School in Baltimore County.

"When I tried to pay him, he refused the money," Mr. Banz said. "He told me that he should thank me because in his faith [Judaism], they consider it an honor and a privilege to help people in need."

Mr. Lazarus was raised in Richmond, Va., graduated from the University of Richmond and received his pharmacy degree from the Medical College of Virginia. In 1942, he married Goldie Cohen shortly before entering the Navy and becoming skipper of a submarine chaser in the Pacific theater.

After his discharge in 1946, the couple moved to Essex, where Mr. Lazarus went to work for Max Helman, owner of Helman's Pharmacy on Eastern Avenue. A few years later, Mr. Lazarus bought the business, changing the name to Lazarus Pharmacy.

In the 1950s, the pharmacy was renovated -- booths were removed to make room for magazines, books and other items -- but Mr. Lazarus kept the old-fashioned soda fountain with its round stools, a fixture until the store closed in 1979, Mrs. Lazarus said.

"It was the focal point of the neighborhood for years," said Paul Michael Blitz, 32, a family friend and archivist for the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River.

"People of all ages who shopped along Eastern Avenue would stop in there for a soda or hand-dipped ice cream."

Mr. Blitz recalls the pharmacist getting someone to donate several truckloads of wood chips and about 50 railroad ties so Mr. Blitz, then 17, could build a walking trail near Back River for a hTC Scouting project.

"He could always get things done," Mr. Blitz said.

Mr. Lazarus helped start the Essex farmers' market, Friday night activities for teen-agers in local schools and helped get a fitness trail built near Back River, Mr. Blitz said.

Mr. Lazarus closed the pharmacy in 1979 so he and his wife could travel the world. But he was a part-time pharmacist at Rite-Aid drugstores.

Services were held Friday in New Jersey. Memorial contributions may be made to the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, 516 Eastern Blvd., Essex 21221, where items from Lazarus Pharmacy are on display.

Besides his wife of 53 years, Mr. Lazarus is survived by a son, Stephen Lazarus of Los Altos, Calif.; a brother, Sam Lazarus of Pikesville; and a granddaughter.

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