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Bartell family mourns passing of workaholic leader

The second generation chairman emeritus of America's oldest family owned drugstore chain has died aged 92 after a short illness.

George H Bartell Jr was the only son of Bartell Drug Co founder George H Bartell Sr, who founded the business in 1890. Between them, they headed the company for 100 years.

Today, Bartell is a $300 million business and operates 55 stores. Bartell Jr's son, George D Bartell, continued the family tradition by becoming president in 1990. His daughter, Jean Bartell Barber, is vice chairman and treasurer.

"My father instilled in us what his own father had believed: respect your employees and treat your customers well," said George D in a statement.

Bartell Jr guided the business through its initial suburban expansion and retail transformation following World War II. He stayed on as chairman until he "retired" – but this meant only coming into the office four days a week until the age of 87 and occasionally thereafter.  

According to family folklore, Bartell Sr asked his young son whether he should sell to a rival chain for $1 million dollars. Bartell Jr said no, paving the way for the company to becoming the oldest family owned drugstore chain in the country.

In 1951 Bartell Jr was forced to earn a degree in pharmacy after a short-lived state law that required drug store owners to be licensed pharmacists meant the company would have to be sold when his father died if he didn't return to college. He studied at his Alma Mater, the University of Washington, after a 17-year absence and graduated with honours.

He is survived by his children, George D Bartell, Jean Bartell Barber, Robert H Bartell and seven grandchildren.

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