Permanent Pharmacist

Bill Neu, shown Tuesday in his pharmacy at 527
Bryan St. in Denton, will soon begin his retirement
process. Bill Neu Pharmacy will officially close Aug. 5
and reopen as a branch of S&J Pharmacy three days later.

Bill Neu’s customers all seem to agree: Their pharmacist is just about the nicest guy around.  “He is really one of the sweetest people I know,” said longtime friend and customer Sue Starnes.

“Bill is a great guy,” said Dale Brown, another customer and friend of Neu’s since 1959, when Neu first moved to Denton and worked at Brooks Drug Store.

After more than 50 years in the pharmacy business, Neu is planning to retire. Bill Neu Pharmacy, at 527 Bryan St., will officially close Aug. 5, reopening as a branch of S&J Pharmacy three days later.

Neu, 74, said it just seemed like time to “start the retirement process.”

Life as a pharmacist
Neu, the son of a farmer, was just 13 years old when he started working at a drug store in his hometown of Whitesboro.

“I respected the pharmacist that owned the store,” Neu said. “I told him, ‘I think I’d like to do that.’”

In 1959, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy. Five months later, he moved to Denton and was hired at Brooks Drug Store on West Hickory Street.

In 1962, he became co-owner of Archie Wolfe Pharmacy on Avenue A. That business closed in 1969, and he became a partner in ACE Drug Mart on Malone Street. Also in 1969, he became co-owner of the Watson-Neu Insurance Agency.

He opened Bill Neu Pharmacy on Bryan Street in 1989, after taking over Tobin Pharmacy.

Neu said the pharmacy business has changed a lot during his career.

“You are not dipping ice cream behind a soda fountain anymore,” he said.

The quality of patient care has improved, he said, and patients are much more knowledgeable about the medications they are taking.

“Moving on from that, a big change is how the insurance industry controls the health care practice, not just in the pharmacy, but in all phases,” he said. “Every health care provider has to just learn to adapt to the regulations.”

Always giving back
Ever since he moved to Denton, customers say, Neu has always found a way to help out those in need.

In the 1960s when Starnes’ son was sick, she remembers, Neu reached out to her.

“Whenever my husband and I were between paychecks and I did not have the money to get the medicines, he would provide me with the prescription,” Starnes said. “That is how you can tell the kind of person he is.”

Three years ago, Neu delivered Starnes’ medications when, in the midst of a family crisis, she forgot to pick them up.

“My husband had leukemia and he was at the ICU at Baylor Medical Center, very ill,” she said. “I had not even paid attention. I was at the hospital sleeping whenever I could and Bill and his wife [Betty] looked up my prescription and brought it to me.”

Neu has been helping others for many years.

In May 1973, Neu, then Denton mayor, and County Judge Tom Todd took part in the 77th annual Cub Scout carnival, according to Denton Record-Chronicle archives. The twowere the featured attraction at the event’s dunking booth.

And in 1996, Neu donated a wheelchair to a handicapped student at Calhoun Middle School after learning the child needed one.

“It was so sweet,” said Theresa Grant, director of health services for the Denton school district. “Out of the goodness of his heart, he gave the kid wheels.”

Neu said his greatest joy as a pharmacist has been to serve his customers, whom he calls his extended family.

“I have four generations of customers,” he said. “I guess I was doing something right.”

Neu also participated in many local groups over the past 52 years. Upon his arrival in Denton in 1959, Neu joined the Denton Lions Club. He served as president in 1966 and was named Lion of the Year in 1966. He also took part in the Denton Sports Association and was a charter member of the Elks Lodge.

Neu’s commitment to the well-being of Denton residents extended to public service, as well. He served as a Denton city councilman from 1969-1975 and served as mayor from 1972-1975. According to Record-Chronicle archives, in 1971 the 31-year-old Neu was the youngest councilman ever elected.

In 1974, he became president of the Texas Municipal League after a four-year stint on the board. In 1978, he joined the board of directors of the Denton Chamber of Commerce with Jim Boso, Bernie Kay Brown, Tom Fouts and others.

Chuck Carpenter, current president of the Denton chamber, said Neu’s vision helped make the chamber instrumental in regional economics.

“My observation is he has certainly been a part of the chamber’s success,” Carpenter said. “There are footprints that have Bill Neu on them. ... He is unpretentious. He is rock solid. We are fortunate to have him.”

Neu describes those years as the most enjoyable time of his life.

Neu and his wife, Betty, are also longtime members of First United Methodist Church of Denton and the Denton Lions Club.

The couple, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2006, have three sons — Bobby, Tim and Gary.

New ownership and a new beginning
In nine days, Neu will lock the doors of his pharmacy for the last time.

And on Aug. 8, three days later, Bill Neu Pharmacy will become part of the S&J Pharmacy chain of independent drug stores.

His customer records will also become part of S&J, Neu said.

S&J Pharmacy is co-owned by Sharon and Jarrod Link, who operate six stores in the Denton and Decatur area.

The Denton location, at 1612 Scripture St., is also co-owned by Sharon Link’s brother-in-law, Greg Burch, and his wife, Mary Ellen.

“It gives us the opportunity to get more customers, to pick up new people that have not been in our stores. It will give us a chance to show them what we can do for them,” Burch said of acquiring Neu’s pharmacy. “If they decide to stay with us, we look forward to the opportunity to serve them.”

He said Neu will continue to work as an S&J pharmacist at least three days a week until he is ready to walk away.

“I am not totally ready to quick working just yet,” Neu said.

With the transition in ownership, Neu said, many of his employees plan to retire. Several were already retired from full-time work and only working for him part time, he said, and they’re ready to move on.

“I am not putting anyone out of work who doesn’t want to be out of work,” he said.

As for his customers, Neu said he was happy to have served them for the past 50 years.  “I feel honored to have done that,” he said.  ~ ~