La Grange pharmacist of 43 years fondly remembered
John Zaruba takes care of business in 2003 behind the counter of the La Grange Rexall Pharmacy he operated for 43 years at 4 W. Burlington Ave. | Doings file photo
Updated: June 4, 2012 1:48AM
Personal service and kindness were the hallmarks of long-time La Grange pharmacist and community volunteer John Zaruba of Oak Brook, who died March 29 at the age of 85.
Zaruba, who opened the La Grange Rexall Pharmacy in 1960, sold the business at 4 W. Burlington Ave., in July 2003 to CVS Corp. He took many of his customers to the CVS store in Brookfield, where he continued filling prescriptions for several years.
“If customers called in the middle of the night, he’d come back,” recalled his daughter Nancy Zaruba Tunk, who worked for her father for many years and now is a pharmacy technician for CVS. “We had a delivery service, my dad and I. After we got off work, we’d drop off prescriptions. He was just that kind of guy.”
Both Tunk and her daughter, Farrah Tunk Fahmy, are proud Zaruba was honored with the La Grange Area NAACP Humanitarian Award in 1990.
“It was the way he treated people,” Fahmy remembered. “He was very welcoming and caring. They called him doctor even through he wasn’t one.”
Tunk said her dad never refused a customer in need.
“It didn’t matter who you were. No one left without getting the medication they needed, whether they had money or not,” she said.
After serving in the Navy in World War II, Zaruba graduated from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy in 1952 and helped found the Phi Delta Chi professional pharmacy fraternity.
Zaruba worked in a Chicago pharmacy and then as a salesman for Eli Lilly and Co. with La Grange as part of his sales territory. When the former Snyder’s Pharmacy was for sale, he jumped at the chance to buy it.
When his business closed, Zaruba told The Doings, “I’ve gotten a kick out of taking care of four generations of people. I have customers who used to come to me as kids, and I’d still give them bubble gum and candy as adults.”
The La Grange Business Association honored Zaruba as Businessman of the Year and with the Business of the Century Award.
In addition to the business group, Zaruba volunteered for the BEDS Plus group providing shelter to the homeless, the League of Women Voters and Community Family Services.
Tunk said she also is pleased the La Grange Police Department will be giving her dad an honor guard escort in recognition of his service to the department.
Zaruba also is survived by his wife, Gloria, of 65 years, a grandson, Ashton Tunk and a great-granddaughter, Giselle Fahmy.
Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. today (Tuesday, April 3) at Hallowell and James Funeral Home, 1025 W. 55th St., Countryside, where a funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. April 4. Entombment is at Queen of Heaven Mausoleum in Westchester.