Pharmacist delivers more than drugs

If the world had more like him, it would be a better place, customer says

October 20, 2002|By Cathy Dyson | Cathy Dyson,THE FREE-LANCE STAR

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Bob Taylor steers his brown Chevy Suburban along a rundown road in rural Spotsylvania County. There's not a lot of traffic in this part of Paytes or asphalt for that matter and Taylor's glad he's got four-wheel drive.

"When it's wet, this road can be a bear," he says, bouncing along with the bumps. At the end of the winding driveway is a rickety trailer and a woman who's lived there alone since her husband died last fall.

As always, she's glad for the medicine and the company he brings. "If it weren't for him, I don't know what I'd do," says 71-year-old Frances Sullivan. "I don't have no car, and I don't have no phone."

One elderly person after another sings the same praises of "Dr. Bob" as he runs routes along the back roads of Spotsylvania and Caroline counties, logging more than 200 miles a day. "Mr. Taylor's been a rock for me, I'm telling you," says Lora Brooks, another widow who lives near Lake Anna. "If the world had a few more like him, it would be a lot better place."

When Agnes Nalls' husband was living, "Bob was right here, bringing him whatever he needed, and he does the same for me," says the Partlow woman. "I appreciate it so much, more than you know."

Bob Taylor isn't a doctor, and he doesn't play one on his visits to rural pockets of the Fredericksburg region. He's a country pharmacist who still delivers prescriptions or over-the-counter items to people who can't make it into his business. He even offers to bring along groceries, if needed, and he doesn't charge for any deliveries.

Taylor runs Courthouse Pharmacy at Spotsylvania Courthouse and has other drivers who take blood-thinners or diabetic supplies to older customers in Fredericksburg and more populated parts of Spotsylvania. He bought the store 15 years ago and ran the Mary Washington Hospital pharmacy for 20 years before that. The 56-year-old knows the personal touch keeps him in business, especially in a county with drugstores and full-service groceries on almost every corner.

But the man known as "Trapper John," because he looks a lot like Pernell Roberts, who portrayed a TV doctor of that name, also sees the need for his kind of service. He meets a lot of people who don't understand the medicine they're taking and aren't sure what to do when they have problems. He explains medical conditions in terms they can understand and calls their doctors or visiting nurses for them. "It's amazing how many people can't read," he says.

Taylor even fills drugs boxes. Each week, Mrs. Brooks hands him a basket filled with seven prescription bottles, and he drops pills into the correct compartments. When he's done, she knows what she needs to take from Monday morning through Sunday night.

Taylor's relationship with the family goes far beyond medicine, says Brooks' daughter, June Greenwald. When her father, Berkley, was alive, he and Taylor talked regularly about everything from Angus calves to cuttings of hay. (Farming is Taylor's pastime, but it seems more like another full-time job. He rents three farms in the Lake Anna area, tends to his own place and raises about a hundred calves a year.)

When Mr. Brooks could no longer take care of all his cattle, Taylor found a new market for him and hauled the animals there himself. And he arranged for someone to put new siding on the their home.

"He's been a guardian angel to my family," Greenwald says. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for this man, and my brother and mother feel the same."

Taylor strives for the same level of service at the office, a 20-foot by 20-foot building that absolutely bustles. Courthouse Pharmacy fills almost 300 prescriptions a day, but it's not the kind of place with 30-minute waits. "Never," says Shirley Maisonneuve. "People wait, maybe 10 minutes, at the most."

A lot of elderly patients come to the store, too, and Taylor's crew helps them down the ramp and into their vehicles. "Some of them about give you a heart attack when they're going down the stairs so we say, `Don't do that. Blow the horn and we'll bring it out to you,'" Maisonneuve says."

No matter how much Taylor has to do and there always seems to be a stack of papers around him he greets each customer. Most he knows by name. On a particular Tuesday, he asks one man how much hay he's baled and another how the roof is coming on his new building.

When an older woman wonders if her prescription is ready, he teases, "That was for birth control, right?" Tom Fish, who runs the pharmacy at the new Giant Food on Courthouse Road, has known Taylor for years and isn't surprised that his business is still going strong.

Fish says: "He takes care of people the way he'd like to be treated, and when you do that, you can't go wrong."

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