Irvin Kamenetz, 85, Overlea drugstore owner


Irvin Kamenetz, a retired pharmacist who was called "Doc Kaye" during the three decades he owned and operated an Overlea drugstore, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Saturday at a rehabilitation center in Naples, Fla. The former Owings Mills resident was 85.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Bryant Avenue, he was 16 when he graduated from City College in 1936. He entered the University of Maryland at Baltimore, studying to become a physician. When he was drafted into the Army at the start of World War II, he had completed enough schooling to receive a pharmacy degree.

Stationed in England as a sergeant in the Medical Corps, he oversaw grain alcohol supplies as part of his duties. As a result, he told family members, "I occasionally ate steak."

After the war he joined the old Read Drug and Chemical Co. as a manager of a neighborhood store, and in 1952 bought Reichert Pharmacy on Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore's Overlea area and renamed it Kaye's.

"It was a working-class neighborhood, and a lot of people could not afford a doctor," said his son, Kevin Kamenetz of Owings Mills, a Baltimore County Council member. "He was a pretty good free doctor."

Well-known and respected in the community, "Doc Kaye" kept the store open 365 days a year and extended credit to those who lacked money for a prescription or household necessities.

"He wasn't going to let someone go without being taken care of," his son said.

The drugstore was a family enterprise. His wife of 39 years, the former Miriam Kierr, made the ice cream sold at the shop's soda fountain. Each of his five children also worked at the business, which had a liquor license and sold sundries.

The pharmacy was near St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, whose parishioners accounted for many of the shop's customers.

"The priest would came to family bar mitzvahs," Kevin Kamenetz said. "It was a real neighborhood setting."

Mr. Kamenetz was a past member of the Overlea Lions Club and past president of the Baltimore Metropolitan Pharmacy Association. He also was a past officer of the Maryland Pharmacy Association and the Association of Independent Druggists.

Remarried after the death of his first wife in 1980, he retired to Marco Island, Fla., 20 years ago and lived there until his death.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

He also is survived by his wife of 24 years, the former Hilda Exler; two other sons, Rodger Kamenetz of New Orleans and Gregory Kamenetz of Arnold; twin daughters, Sonna Kalis of Arnold and Sylvia Scherr of Bethesda; two stepsons, Jack Kleiman of Jerusalem and Arthur Kleiman of Westminster; a stepdaughter, Rhea Merin of Tucson, Ariz.; a sister, Evelyn Dickman of Baltimore; 26 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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