Susan Lithgow’s childhood memories live on at a storefront on Edgewood Avenue.
The signs are gone and a new business is there, but for Lithgow, the space will always be known as “The Druggie,” the former Edgewood Pharmacy’s nickname.
Edgewood Pharmacy, owned by Dick Lithgow, who recently passed away, was one of the last mom and pop pharmicies in the neighborhood. It was also Susan's favorite babysitter.
“Every month when the new comic books came out, we would stay all morning and read them,” she said. “We all had our first jobs there.”
Her father passed away March 23 at the age of 82 in Florida, where he had moved several years ago. A memorial service mass will be held for him at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Wilkinsburg at 10 a.m. May 7.
The legendary Lithgow was known for his sharp sense of humor and colorful choice of words at times. A lifelong Edgewood volunteer firefighter, he once held every office in the department when his health prevented him from physically doing the job.
Active at St. James parish, Lithgow was the man responsible for bringing in the first female ushers at church, and always volunteered at the food bank, his daughter said.
“He saw a need and he filled it. He tried to raise us to carry on the work that should be done by society as a whole,” she said.
Susan said her father’s sense of humor will always live on in her own life.
“When times are dark, it really helps me to see the absurd side of things,” she said. “I think his life experience gave him that because he grew up with an alcoholic father and the responsibility of that. When he and my mother got married, my grandmother and his younger brother had nowhere to go and he took them both in.”
Born in Derry, Lithgow lived in North Braddock and spent most of his childhood in Wilkinsburg. His first job was at Hart Socks Drug Store in Wilkinsburg as a soda fountain worker.
“That’s how he got that love and life ambition for the mom and pop drug store,” she said. “Those were the days before the big chains and prescription health policies.”
One of his favorite stories to tell that occurred when he worked there involved the store cat. One day, he was working the fountain and right underneath the counter the mother cat was giving birth to kittens while everyone was sitting there enjoying their sodas.
When he went to college in the later ‘40s, schools didn’t have grants to give.
“It was all on him to go to college on his own, so he became a pool shark and paid for a lot of his tuition and school expenses,” Susan said.
Lithgow studied at the University of Pittsburgh where the current Mercy School of Nursing is in the Hill District, at times walking to class from Wilkinsburg.
“It was a struggle but he made it through,” Susan said.
Right after he graduated in 1950, he joined a MASH unit in the Korean War.
“He basically lived that TV show and said that is exactly what it was,” she said. “He was on the unit where people recovered and ran the pharmacy there.”
After he came back to the United States, he started working at Pullins Pharmacy in Turtle Creek, which was owned by the same person who owned Edgewood Pharmacy. When Lithgow met Susan’s mother, Jeanne Anne Ferguson, who died in 2003, he was working at both.
“When they met, she walked into the pharmacy and asked him for a box of Koex, which were the squares of cotton to take makeup off, and he brought out a big box of Kotex,” Susan said.
They married in 1957. Susan was in fifth grade when Lithgow bought Edgewood Pharmacy, which he owned and operated for 28 years.
“Looking at it, we saw him one way as a father, but with our whole life seeing him in a leadership role at The Druggie, we took in how he would help people and he did sacrifice a lot,” she said. “He would get called out at 3 a.m. to open the store and fill a prescription. I remember when I started driving, I delivered prescriptions to people around town. It’s nice to know that he was appreciated and all that sacrifice wasn’t made in vain.”
In 1981, about 30 friends and family gathered at “The Druggie” one last time, champagne glasses in hand, to toast what Dick Lithgow had built.
“When things started to change with pharmacies and drug plans, he decided to get out before the store fell apart and that was a very sad day,” she said. “It was like my whole childhood just going away.”
Susan, who has four siblings, said her parents taught the family strong values of giving back to others.
“The biggest thing both my parents taught me was a sense of responsibility – that you look outside of yourself and look to others,” Susan said. “Even though we weren’t the richest family in Edgewood by any means, you had to be grateful and pass it on. Really before the catch phrase, ‘Pay it forward’ came out, our parents really instilled that in us.”
Lithgow moved to Lakeland, Fl. six years ago and remarried two years after his wife died. Her name is Trudi Robinson. Lithgow continued to work at area pharmacies and later had a job at the VA, but his legacy in Edgewood lives on as the Edgewood Pharmacy owner.