Before there were massive chain drug stores and Big Pharma, there were little, mom-and-pop, locally owned and operated pharmacies. They filled your prescriptions, gave you friendly advice on drug interaction and took personal care of the needs of many a family.
Those days are mostly gone now as are the days of doctor’s house calls and family physicians. Much of healthcare has become impersonal and computerized.
I have fond memories of several local pharmacies, including Mack Drug’s, Lynch’s pharmacy, Wayne’s Drugs which is still locally owned and Burnside pharmacy. Burnside’s was run by pharmacist Don Burnside and his family for many years, and was purchased in the early 1980’s by Ronald K. Smith. A young local pharmacist with deep Oswego roots, he operated the store initially under the Burnside name and later as RKS Pharmacy, dispensing many a pill until closing in 1991.
Ron and his wife Marilyn made their home in Oswego on West Seventh Street, and had four children, all of whom attended St. Mary’s school and Oswego High School. Ron is a graduate of Ferris University pharmacy school in Big Rapids, Michigan, and is an Oswego native. Marilyn (Marsh) is an Oswego native as well.
Their marriage was a prescription for success, as they just celebrated fifty years of marriage on June 27. They are both retired and recently sold their Oswego home at 53 W. Seneca St. and now spend their time between their summer home on Chaumont Bay in Jefferson County, and their travel home in various Florida locations. They are both active campers and kayakers. Marilyn is an avid gardener and bird watcher.
In addition to being a top notch pharmacist, Ron has been an avid sailor and is an amateur entertainer. He plays guitar and sings, often playing with other local musicians at local churches, restaurants and bars as well as at the Hall Newman center on the SUNY campus.
Ron was one of the original members of the Oswego Yacht Club. He often sailed in competitive regattas, and he once took a year off from his professional pursuits to sail off, solo, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a 34-foot Irwin sailboat and made it all the way to Trinidad and Tobago. He became so enamored of the beauty of the area that he decided to go no further. 24,000 miles is a long way to attempt to sail, but going the extra mile has always been a hallmark of Ron’s approach to life.
Ron and Marilyn had four children: Kimberly, Heather, Ronald and Matthew. They are grandparents of 10 and great grandparents of one.
Kimberly resides with her partner Joel in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Ronald (aka Rono) and his wife, Sierra, split their time between Southern California and summers in upstate New York. (Full disclosure: Rono married my daughter Sierra — f.k.a Julie). Heather works for BOCES and lives in the Oswego area. Matthew and his wife Morgan live in North Carolina.
The Smith family, while far flung, always makes time each summer to gather at the family compound, a former summer cottage that has been recently transformed into a three-season home with ample bedrooms and private spaces for all the adult kids to enjoy their own space while they are there.
Music, laughter, sailing, fishing, swimming, water skiing, boat rides, fireside chats and Marilyn’s famous homemade carrot cake are all part of the Smith family’s successful prescription for life. May they have many more years of joy and harmony ahead.
John T. Sullivan is a former Oswego Mayor and the author of three books, “Forks In The Road” parts I and II and an autobiography “Pee Not Your Pants — Memoirs of a small time mayor with big time ideas,” available locally in the river’s end bookstore and online. His column appears exclusively in The Palladium-Times on the first Thursday of each month.