Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 1, 2014

Factory worker to pharmacist

Princeton man recalls his path in pharmacy career

GLENWOOD — In 1946, Neil Lohr wasn’t sure he would make it to pharmacy school. But a surprise phone call from WVU changed his career path from factory worker to a small town pharmacist.  

Lohr, 88, of Princeton, was born in Paden City, and moved to Princeton in 1950.

After graduating from Magnolia High School in 1943, Lohr was accepted into the Navy V-12 officer training, where he attended Bethany College as a pre-med student.

“Before I went to officer training I worked in the glass factory for a few months to save some money,” Lohr said.

Lohr was then sent to Bethesda Navel Hospital where he worked in the urinalysis lab.

“I never had to go to war, I was in school the whole time,” Lohr said. “I stayed at the Naval Hospital from spring of 1944 until the fall, where I then attended the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Va. This is when I learned I didn’t want to be a doctor. It just didn’t fit, so I came home and I decided I wanted to go to pharmacy school.”  

When Lohr returned home from the Medical College of Virginia, he learned that WVU Pharmacy School was full, so he took a job at PPG Industries in New Martinsville for the summer.

“I was only supposed to work at PPG Industries for the summer, but since pharmacy school was full, I had to ask my boss if he could hire me full time. He did and I was supposed to start the next day, so I went home to gather my clothes and belongings, and when I opened the door to the house, the phone rang and I ran up the stairs to answer it. It was the WVU Pharmacy School, they had one person decide not to come and had one space open and if I was interested to get in touch with them. So of course I did and I attended WVU from 1946 to 1950. I came pretty close to being a factory worker,” Lohr said.

During this time, Lohr married the love of his life, Carol Cooper and had two children, Robert Lohr and the late Jane Lohr.

Lohr met Carol while working at PPG Industries.

“We went to high school together but didn’t date until I met her at the factory,” Lohr said.

“When I graduated in 1950, my brother Charles ‘Tate’ Lohr had a pharmacy and needed a pharmacist and I need a job. So my brother came up there and got us and moved us to Princeton, we didn’t even have a stick of furniture. So we found an apartment that a couple was wanting to rent out while they were gone for a few months and it was fully furnished so we took it while we saved up some money,” he said.

“I remember when we got our own place, we would save some money, go down to the furniture store and buy a piece of furniture and then subtract to see how much money we had left. We didn’t have a refrigerator, but we had a washtub so we would put ice in it and use it to keep stuff cool. We didn’t have a stove either so we had to cook over this little fire thing we had. We didn’t mind though,” Lohr said.

Lohr worked at the Princeton Pharmacy for 46 years.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said.

Lohr and his brother also started the Bluewell Pharmacy.

“We didn’t have as much competition in Bluewell as we did in Princeton. We had customers all the way to Welch,” Lohr said.

After retiring in 1996, Lohr says, “I really miss my customers.”

After the death of his wife, Lohr lived by himself next door to his son, Robert.

“One day I started having some trouble breathing and I had to go to the hospital. Come to find out, I had congestive heart failure and some fluid around my heart. After I was released from the hospital, my son thought it might be a good idea if I came and stayed at Glenwood Retirement Community. I really just wanted to go back home, but I decided I would come try it out for a couple months and after that I decided I was going to stay. My son Robert was so happy. I have been here for two years now and I couldn’t be treated any better. The nurses are so nice,” Lohr said.

Lohr was also a member of the First United Methodist Church in Princeton, which he and his wife joined when they first moved to Princeton.

“I taught Sunday school and I must have been the chairman of every board they had,” Lohr said.

Up until just a few years ago, Lohr went to all of the WVU bowl games. His face lights up when he talks about WVU. His room at Glenwood is decked out in Mountaineer regalia and he is proud of every single piece of it.

He said he has always enjoyed turkey hunting and the occasional rabbit and squirrel hunting.

If Lohr isn’t in his WVU themed room reading his favorite books, he can be found riding his stationary bike everyday after lunch, or in the library at Glenwood enjoying the view of the pond and counting the Canada geese.

“I love riding that bike. Medicare told me they were going to stop paying for it, I said well I will just pay you if you let me come down there and ride it,”Lohr said.

In addition to cheering on his Mountaineers, Lohr enjoys going on the different trips that Glenwood offers. He especially enjoys visiting the book mobile and getting new books, going to different plays and outings, and riding in the Veterans Day Parade. Lohr says he enjoys his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and is very proud of their different accomplishments.

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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