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Becoming pharmacist right prescription for Aurora druggist

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Talk about new ways to start feeling older.

When I encounter seventh-grade “kids” whom I taught a very long time ago and find that they are retired from their careers, it is sort of a reality slap.

One such “kid” is Paul Kluber, who is known to many in the community as the longtime pharmacist and pharmacy manager at the Osco store on Aurora’s West Side. He retired from those positions two years ago.

I caught up with him recently to discuss his career in pharmacy, and to see how he and his wife Beth have been doing.

He grew up on Aurora’s East Side and graduated from Aurora Central Catholic High School in 1975. The seeds of Paul’s career in pharmacy were probably planted when he began a part-time job as a stock boy at the now defunct Jewel/Osco on the East Side.

This occurred as he began his junior year in high school, but according to Paul, the more important event happened as he graduated high school. He was asked to become a pharmacy apprentice (precursor to today’s pharmacy technician) at the same store. He then attended Waubonsee Community College, and during his time there decided to pursue pharmacy as a career.

He finished pre-pharmacy requirements at Waubonsee in 1977, and lived in Chicago while attending pharmacy school at the University of Illinois-Chicago from 1977-81.

“Mr. Allen and Mr. Koch were excellent teachers I had at Waubonsee,” Paul recalled, “and Dr. Braun at UIC was excellent in biochemistry.”

Upon graduation from UIC, Paul returned to the East Side Osco as a “floater” pharmacist with different work shifts. It was the beginning of a 41-year career with Osco, the great majority of it spent at the West Galena Boulevard store.

He quickly advanced to become a pharmacy manager, and spent brief times in that role at Osco stores in West Chicago and Elgin before becoming pharmacy manager at the West Galena store in 1989. He continued as manager until 2017, and as staff pharmacist until his retirement in 2022.

Paul’s leadership abilities and skill levels led to his becoming a new pharmacist mentor and trainer, a certified diabetes educator and an immunizing pharmacist during his years at the West Side store.

Although chronicling his years of education and work experience was interesting, our discussion of his role as a valued health care professional who was liked and trusted by so many in the community was my main interest.

I asked Paul if he enjoyed his role as a “community pharmacist.”

“We are the only people who are readily available, as the doctors usually are not,” he said. “If someone wanted an answer right now, I could usually help, and I enjoyed that role. Pharmacists are only a phone call away, or customers could always stop in.”

I inquired about Paul’s relationships with seniors and special needs customers.

“My elderly customers are some of the best memories I have,” he said. “Some depended on me so much, and I almost became a child to them. That personal connection made it very hard to lose those people.

“People need their pharmacist to navigate things for them many times, especially their insurance,” he said. “I began to see children of customers, and sometimes even grandchildren.”

Without my asking, Paul spoke of his wife’s support for him during his schooling and career.

“My wife was always supportive of me. We waited six years through college and pharmacy school to get married,” he said. “She always gave me her honest opinion when I asked, and she always propped me up during any of the ‘valleys’ at work.”

I frequently ask people who have spent many years in a career or position to summarize those years in a brief comment, which is sometimes a difficult question, but Paul did not hesitate with his thought.

“I sometimes wonder where the 41 years went, and how much the business had changed with the legal and compliance issues,” he said. “I enjoyed my career because I was the ‘go to’ guy. I sometimes would hear a customer say to another customer ‘go and talk to Paul.’ And I tried to be helpful over the phone with customers.

“I’m a very social person, and in many ways, being a pharmacist is a very social job,” he said. “I’m glad I took the path I took.”

Tom Strong is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.



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