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Pharmacist Stan Lee was kind, considerate
Stanley Lee

The quiet, pipe-smoking Stanley Lee at Manteca Drug Store always put his customers first through his caring demeanor.

Lee, 93, joined the Yosemite Avenue pharmacy in the early ‘60s and became a partner with owner Ted Poulos some two years later.  Pharmacist Ed Larimer later joined the two as an additional partner right out of pharmacy school – working first as a stock boy during high school.

Poulos referred to his partner as “such a wonderful person to work with – very bright.”  A native of San Francisco, Lee passed away Nov. 18, 2011.

Lee decided to retire in 1994 with the closing of the drug store and the retirement of Poulos.  Drafted, he had served with the Flying Tigers Chemical Warfare Service in World War II as part of the Fourteenth Air Force, stationed in China, from 1943 to 1946.

He served as the liaison officer to the new Korean government in 1946 where he helped form the pharmaceutical laws for the country.

He received his degree in pharmacy in 1940 from the University of California at Berkeley.  Lee was born in San Francisco and raised in San Rafael where he first worked in a drug store as a stock and delivery boy.  He said that was when he first became interested in pharmacy. The early experience got him hooked.

Lee’s son Stuart quoted his dad when he said, “Enjoyment of being a pharmacist is serving the community and helping your neighbors out – not for the money.”

He had gone with his dad to the pharmacy numerous times while he was growing up – late night trips to fill emergency prescriptions for customers. 

“Those late night phone calls made me very proud of him – he earned respect,” Stuart said.  “One of my dad’s legacies is that he touched many lives in Manteca – still going on today.”

Stuart said he is often stopped by people even today who reference his dad’s kindness. 

Lee’s son went on to say that the pharmacy always smelled medicinal, but the pipe smoking added a little something special to the medicinal aroma.  He remembered one elderly lady pecking at the screen on the front door, asking to come in after hours and talk to the pharmacist.  When Stewart asked which pharmacist, he recalled her saying, “the one with the pipe.”

Peggy Larimer worked at Manteca Drug as a clerk for some 13 years with Lee’s wife Sylvia and where her husband was a partner in the pharmacy.

“Stan was a really fun guy to work with,” Larimer said.  “He had quite a sense of humor and he was a good boss.”

Ed Larimer – pharmacist today at Target – said the drugstore was Lee’s life, adding that he had never taken a sick day off from work.

Lee called ‘mainstay’ of Manteca Drug

“He was the mainstay, working nights and weekends,” Larimer said.  “He was a fast (two fingers) hunt and pecker,” he said of his typing out prescriptions.  “Everything back then was typed out.”

Larimer lauded the Lee children Susan, Stephanie and Stuart in their family support system for seeing their parents were cared for in their Manteca home rather than having them go to a nursing facility. 

“He worked hard to see that all his kids got a good education,” he said.  They all worked in the drug store during high school either as clerks or in stocking the shelves or making deliveries.

Susan is a teaching pharmacist at San Joaquin County Hospital and Stephanie has her MD and PhD degrees and is currently a research doctor and an associate professor of medicine at Boston University.

Lee’s grandson Gregory Peterfreund is at the University of Pennsylvania where he has earned the same MD and PhD degree as his mother Stephanie garnered 30 years ago.  Grandson Matthew, 19, is a student at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Stephanie received her degrees in 1982 in San Diego, the same year Lee was named Rotarian of the Year in Manteca.  Stuart graduated from Cal State Sacramento with a degree in computer engineering becoming quite a trouble shooter, according to his aunt.

Manteca Bulletin advertising staffer for some 30 years, Marge Craig, said she, too, was saddened to hear of Lee’s passing.

 “Those were the days – a very special man, very tender.  Anytime I talked with him, I always walked away feeling very uplifted,” she said.

Former Manteca mayor and insurance man Mark Oliver also remembers Lee well at the height of his career both at the drug store and from their membership in the Manteca Rotary Club where Lee faithfully attended the weekly luncheon meetings.

Oliver said he learned early-on that Lee was a great guy by his association with him in the Rotary International service club family. 

Other members of the community shared stories where Lee would demonstrate his compassion for his customers with young families who had difficulty in paying for the children’s prescriptions – giving them months to pay their bills.

‘Just a nice guy’

Longtime owner of Hafer’s Furniture and developer of the Manteca museum, Ken Hafer, remembers Lee as a very gentle and private person.  He added that the pharmacist was “just a nice guy.”

The Manteca pharmacist was quoted some 25 years ago in a news article saying that “trust and dependability” are the uppermost qualities for a pharmacist.

“For most people, we serve as the first line of defense against ill health,” he had said.  “People have to trust us and depend on what we can supply them with.  A lot of people will consult a pharmacist before they do a doctor, because we’re readily available and they’ve dealt with us a lot.  We get calls at home late at night.  The greatest thing about pharmacy is caring for the well being of people,” Lee said.

Partner pharmacist Ed Larimer put it succinctly when he said:

“He was a wonderful man.  We’ll miss him.  Unfortunately another era is slowly moving on.”