Joseph Libercci, pharmacist and longtime owner of the Park Avenue Pharmacy who was known as “Dr. Joe” and for his numerous kindnesses, died Oct. 11 of cancer at his Bolton Hill home. He was 72.
“Joe was just wonderful and really the center of Bolton Hill,” said Julian L. “Jack” Lapides, a Baltimore attorney and longtime former member of the House of Delegates. “He was generous, kind and calm, and wonderful to everyone. He gave and gave to our community and never asked anything for himself. He was the epitome of what a community should be.”
Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, a Baltimore writer, was not only a longtime customer, but also a friend of Mr. Libercci’s.
“One of the best things about moving to Bolton Hill was Joe and having a relationship with him and his wife Michelle,” Ms. Shapiro said. “Joe was the center of the universe in Bolton Hill. He was a gentle soul and a lovely person who could never do enough for you.”
She added: “I think the word mensch was invented for Joe.”
Charlie Vascellaro, a Bolton Hill writer and baseball historian, who lives in the Beethoven Apartments, across the street from the Park Avenue Pharmacy, was both a customer and friend who liked shooting the breeze with Mr. Libercci about the latest Orioles game.
“As long as time allowed,” Mr. Vascellaro said. “Joe was a wonderful human being and the backbone of our neighborhood. Everyone leaned on him."
Joseph Libercci, the son of Raphael Libercci, a tailor of Italian descent, and his wife, Anna Darrow Libercci, a Jewish homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Beehler Avenue near Park Circle.
“He was raised with Jewish principles,” said his wife of six years, Michelle Libercci, whom he had been with since 2001.
A 1965 graduate of City College, he earned his pharmacy degree in 1971 from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
After working at pharmacies in Middle River and Owings Mills, Mr. Libercci was approached by Mark Levi and Bernie Weisman, who attended pharmacy school with him at Maryland.
Mr. Levi, who was the owner of the Medical Arts Pharmacy on West Read Street, and Mr. Wiseman, who owned the Charlesmead Pharmacy in Pinehurst, offered Mr. Libercci a partnership in the Park Avenue Pharmacy located in the 1500 block of Park Ave., in the early 1980s.
“Joe was the model partner,” said Mr. Levi, a Pikesville resident, who is now retired. “We did this venture with Joe because he was such a good businessperson and partner that we got our return on our investment in one year, which allowed us to buy other stores.”
He recalled that Mr. Libercci had a favorite expression when he had a particularly good business day.
“Joe would say, ‘We had another bodacious day,’ ” Mr. Levi said.
Since 1984, Mr. Libercci has owned the pharmacy outright and was known for his customer service.
“He thrived at helping people day-to-day with their medicines and always gave his personal touch while explaining the side effects and contraindications of the drugs,” Ms. Libercci wrote in a biographical profile of her husband. “He would even drop off your medications at your home if you were unable to pick them up in time."
“In addition to filling prescriptions for the old folks who live in the assisted-living facility around the corner, he always recommended a more affordable alternative to name brand, over the counter medications,” Mr. Vascellaro said.
Dr. Daniel R. Howard, a Baltimore physician and friend, had cared for Mr. Libercci for the last 25 years.
“Joe was the most generous person I’ve ever known and really was an incredibly generous man,” Dr. Howard said. “He gave away more drugs than any pharmacist in the world. If someone couldn’t pay, he gave it to them. He took care of the homeless people and their pharmaceutical needs and cared about their housing needs.
Park Avenue Pharmacy also sold beer, wine, spirits, cookies, crackers, chips, ice cream and candy among other things.
“It was like a general store,” said Shawn Harrod, of West Baltimore, who began working in the pharmacy as a cashier when he was 10 years old in 2004. “We sold post and greeting cards and ice cream for kids. We even had a hardware section. While we were a mom and pop pharmacy, we sold a little bit of everything.”
“He sold postage stamps and envelopes and allowed people to use his fax machine. It was a general store, post office and business center,” Mr. Vascellaro said.
In addition, Mr. Libercci’s pharmacy became a way station for postal workers, UPS and FedEx delivery people, who could safely leave packages they could not deliver to customers in his care.
“Joe would call up people and tell them he had a package waiting for them,” Mr. Vascellaro said.
“I went in there one day and there were about 20 packages in the corner and I asked Joe what this was all about,” Mr. Levi said, with a laugh. “He was a part-time pharmacist and a part-time UPS man whose pharmacy was like a UPS mailbox.”
Mr. Harrod’s mother had been a longtime cashier at the Park Avenue Pharmacy, and when she fell ill, he took over her job.
“I’d work there after school and on Saturdays and during the summer,” said Mr. Harrod, who is the drugstore’s pharmacy technician. “Joe was a very insightful person who always had a lesson to teach you or a cute or corny story to tell you.”
Mr. Harrod, who is preparing to attend pharmacy school, said Mr. Libercci was “my mentor.”
After selling the business several years ago, Mr. Libercci continued working there until a month before he died.
A resident of Bolton Hill for 13 years, Mr. Libercci was an Orioles and classic Hollywood movie fan.
"There isn’t a soul in Bolton Hill who had anything bad to say about Joe,' Mr. Levi said.
Graveside services were held Oct. 13 at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville.