James P. Cragg Jr.

Irvington pharmacist James P. Cragg Jr. died.

James Phillip Cragg Jr., a retired pharmacist who owned and operated his family's Irvington drug store for nearly five decades, died of respiratory failure Jan. 2 at his daughter's home in Great Falls, Va. The former resident of Woodmark, Howard County, was 93.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Adelle Terrace, he was the son of James Phillip Cragg Sr. and Bertha Lenore Cragg. He got the name Tim after the Charles Dickens character, Tiny Tim. As a boy he befriended a schoolmate, the future mayor and governor, William Donald Schaefer. The pair attended Gwynns Falls Junior High School together and Baltimore City College, where they were 1939 graduates. They remained friends.

During World War II, Mr. Cragg was a lieutenant commander in the Navy and served aboard the USS Gillette in the Atlantic and Pacific.

After the war, Mr. Cragg finished his degree at the University of Maryland's School of Pharmacy. He later became president of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy Alumni Association.

His son, James Phillip Cragg III, said his father started work when he was 15 as a delivery boy and soda fountain worker for an uncle, John Wannenwetsch, at his Irvington Pharmacy, on Frederick and Augusta avenues. His family had been associated with the business since 1913.

Mr. Cragg, who was known as Dr. Tim, met his future wife, the former Marie Stafford, a public school teacher, who came into the store's soda fountain, a popular neighborhood gathering spot.

In a 1989 Evening Sun article that appeared after Mr. Cragg closed his business, he recalled the lunch counter.

"The soda fountain was a great draw," he said. "We were reluctant to give it up in 1973. There were five churches in this neighborhood and it seemed like everybody at the monastery [St. Joseph's] came here after Mass for a Coke."

The story described its five booths and counter trimmed in stainless steel. Lemon-flavored Cokes were a nickel. Fountain workers served Hendler's ice cream.

The family bought a Rexall Pharmacy franchise in 1959 and as part of the agreement, had to install bright orange and blue signage. Mr. Cragg donated the signs to the Smithsonian Institution in March 1989, several months after he retired.

Ray Kondratas, who was then curator of the medical sciences division of the National Museum of American History, said of the sign, "It's in good condition and it illustrates the growth of drug chains and pharmacy franchises. Rexall was the earliest and largest chain."

By the time he retired in late 1988, Mr. Cragg was the pharmacy's sole owner.

"We filled 214 prescriptions the last day. I was getting tired. I didn't want to pass out on the floor," Mr. Cragg said in the 1989 article.

His son said the store was open 365 days a year, including Christmas.

"Your whole life revolved around the store and not the other way around," he said. "Our customers remained loyal and returned to the old neighborhood even when they had moved on. My father got along with everybody. I never heard him brag or embellish anything."

Mr. Cragg hired neighborhood teens to drive the series of Volkswagen Beetles he bought as prescription delivery cars. He removed the front passenger seat to provide space for the numerous pill bottles the boys delivered. When one of his drivers mistakenly crashed into the store, Mr, Cragg quipped that he now had a drive-through pharmacy, his son said.

Mr. Cragg discovered golf as a teenager, and he typically took off Wednesday afternoons to play with a friend. He was a longtime member of Catonsville's Rolling Road Golf Club. He played on its 1952 Maryland State Club Championship Team. He was the 1961-1962 president of the Middle Atlantic Golf Association.

"He thought using a golf cart was terrible — you walked," his son said. "Also, if you lost a golf ball, you didn't leave the course until you found it."

He established a prize at the University of Maryland's pharmacy school to be awarded to a senior who "demonstrates exceptional performance in the practice of community pharmacy."

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road, Ellicott City.

In addition to his son and wife of 48 years, survivors include a daughter, Pamela Stafford Singleton of Great Falls, Va.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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