Roger H. Nattans, 85, headed family-owned drugstore chain

February 27, 2005|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Roger H. Nattans, a Baltimore native who once headed the family-owned chain of Read's Drug Stores in Maryland, died Wednesday after collapsing at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was 85.

Raised in the city's Mount Washington neighborhood, he attended Forest Park High School and was captain of the school's lacrosse team in the late 1930s.

Mr. Nattans attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. He left college to join the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He was a cryptologist in the Navy's Signal Corps, deciphering messages.

Upon returning to Baltimore, he went to work for a drugstore chain that got its start from a store, at Howard and Lexington streets, that his grandfather bought in 1899 from a druggist named William H. Read.

Mr. Nattans' father, Arthur Nattans Sr., acquired the store upon the grandfather's death in 1905, and, after he retired, was succeeded by his son.

With 97 stores, Read's Drug Stores became the area's largest drugstore chain. The outlets had lunch counters and soda fountains that were renowned for their milkshakes and plate lunches.

Family members with the controlling ownership interest in the privately owned company sold it in 1977 to the Rite Aid Corp. Mr. Nattans' nephew, Arthur Joseph Nattans III, said the sale was anguishing for his uncle. He said Mr. Nattans viewed employees as part of an extended family and was concerned for their welfare.

"It was tough for him," his nephew said of the decision to sell the company. "He was not in favor of the sale but really couldn't override it."

He said his uncle had a "magnetic personality" and attracted friends easily. "He loved to tell stories, was never ostentatious or overbearing and was always quick to give credit to others."

Mr. Nattans was an avid golfer and an enthusiastic fan of the Baltimore Colts and Navy football teams.

Anne K. Gaynor of Baltimore, a lifelong friend, said she and her husband regularly attended Colts games with Mr. Nattans and his wife, the former Marguerite Johnson.

Mr. Nattans' stepdaughter Pamela F. Grant of Pikesville described him as down-to-earth and "the best friend I could possibly have."

"He was gentle and sweet and had a fabulous sense of humor," Ms. Grant said.

She said he adored her mother. Their 49th wedding anniversary would have been today.

The Nattans resided for 30 years in Owings Mills before relocating to St. Petersburg in 1978.

Services with military honors will be held at 3 p.m. today at Druid Ridge Cemetery, Park Heights Avenue and Old Court Road.

In addition to his wife, stepdaughter and nephew, survivors include another stepdaughter, Robin G. Dalsheimer of Grand Cayman, Cayman Island; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

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