Barbara Wolf, 78, pioneering pharmacist

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2011 - 9:42 PM

An extraordinary dedication to a community -- and where did she find the time for everything else?

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Barbara Wolf

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Barbara Wolf was a pioneer -- one of only three women to graduate with a pharmacy degree from the University of Minnesota in 1957.

But what sticks in the mind of her son Tom was her dedication: her willingness, for instance, to go out in the middle of the night to deliver medicine to whoever needed it.

"Our phone would ring at least twice a week between midnight and 4 a.m.," said Tom, who is now chairman of the Scott County board. "And she always answered the phone, and she'd go out and bring people what they needed. She worked 24/7 -- one vacation in 40 years. She worked so hard all her life that all eight kids were born with sore backs and calluses."

Wolf, longtime owner with husband Robert of the now-defunct Jordan Drug, died Sept. 17 at the Lutheran Home in Belle Plaine. She was 78.

For Jim Terwedo, the former Scott County attorney, Wolf represents a lost era of intensely personal service.

"We lost something when Barb got ill and they closed down" a number of years ago, he said. "She was what small mom-and-pop businesses used to be. When you walked in, she would be standing in her white coat on that raised platform in back, with a phone in one ear, and talking to a customer in front of her, and she'd be waving at you because she saw you, too, and knew everything about you."

Generations of families got their prescriptions there, he said. "They found the same people there decade after decade and it wasn't like 'who's the employee of the week?' and it wasn't like you put some 'concerned pharmacist' on TV but it was really an actor. She was not a spokesperson, she was the person. She would take care of you and all your specific little needs and when she saw you at church or the grocery store, she would ask how you were doing as well."

She was born Barbara Ann Rieschl in 1933 in Passaic, N.J., the youngest of three kids. She graduated from high school in Patterson, N.J., but there was also a family cabin all the way out in Wisconsin, and her life soon became Midwestern.

She was a devout Catholic; she is reputed never to have missed mass on any single day for 40 years. She chose what is now St. Catherine University in St. Paul for her undergraduate degree.

She moved on to the university's College of Pharmacy, where the family believes she finished at the top of her class. The college said it couldn't verify that, but it did say she was awarded a prize for having "rendered outstanding service to the college."

A family connection in Scott County led her to meet her husband-to-be at a tavern in Jordan. They were married in 1956 at St. John the Baptist in Jordan.

It was "inexplicable," Tom Wolf said, how his mother found time to be active in the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary, Jordan Lioness Club and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, while rearing "twice as many kids as I have."

In addition to her son Tom and his wife, Kellie, her survivors include her husband; children, Kristin (Brett) Storrar, Vadnais Heights; Sheila (Scott) Mitchell, Minneapolis; R.J. (Susan) Wolf, Bloomington; Patrick (Dana) Wolf, Hermantown; Michael (Margaret) Wolf, St. Paul; Merrie (Ken) Matson, Chanhassen, and Paul Wolf, Jordan; brother-in-law Dr. Paul Stahler of Jordan; sister-in-law Patricia Rieschl of Minong, Wis., and many grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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