Gabriel J. Poggi Sr., a retired Glen Burnie pharmacist whose Crain Highway drugstore was known for its friendly atmosphere and its homemade milkshakes and fountain Coca-Colas, died Wednesday from complications of a stroke at his Ruxton residence. He was 81.
For nearly 30 years until closing Albrecht's Pharmacy in 1983, Mr. Poggi dispensed more than drugs to his customers and hangers-on who made the two-story brick pharmacy a second home. A lighthearted man, he had a penchant for verbal and practical jokes.
"He was very loquacious and loved telling stories and jokes. The store was really a fun place. Back then, Glen Burnie was a sleepy town, and it wasn't uncommon to see a cop in the back room enjoying an ice cream cone, milkshake or a cup of coffee," said a son, Gabriel J. Poggi Jr., an attorney who lives in Ruxton.
Mr. Poggi was an athletic man with a crew cut who stood nearly 6 feet tall. He sported hand-tied bow ties. He shunned the white pharmacist's coat and preferred wearing white shirts.
"You came in the store and walked straight back to the prescription counter. He didn't sell food but made handmade chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milkshakes and ice cream cones," his son said.
Mr. Poggi, who was called "Doc," sold a wide variety of merchandise, including newspapers, sundries, wristwatches, greeting cards, cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
The popular druggist who was described by his son as a "giver and not a taker," often accepted a bushel basket of corn or tomatoes in lieu of payment for a prescription.
Born and raised in Little Italy, Mr. Poggi came naturally to pharmacy. For years, his father, Gabriel L. Poggi, also a pharmacist, owned Kelly & Poggi Pharmacy at 214 S. Exeter St.
A graduate of Loyola Blakefield, Mr. Poggi earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College and a pharmacy degree from the University of Maryland.
He began his career at University Parkway Pharmacy near the Johns Hopkins University and lat er worked at MacGillivray's Pharmacy at Read and Charles streets before taking over Albrecht's Pharmacy in 1953.
After retiring, he worked until the late 1980s as a part-time pharmacist at the Aero Pharmacy in Middle River.
Mr. Poggi was married for 52 years to the former Diana Tangires, who survives him.
A longtime friend of the Carmelite Sisters, Mr. Poggi visited their monastery in Dulaney Valley and often attended Mass there.
Mr. Poggi attended Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson and St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in downtown Baltimore.
Services are private.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Poggi is survived by another son, Francis X. Poggi of Ruxton; a daughter, Elizabeth P. McEvoy of Ruxton; a sister, Julia E. Poggi of Ruxton; and nine grandchildren.