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Originally published January 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 23, 2009 at 3:02 AM

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Obituary

George H. Bartell Jr. was longtime head of family's drugstore chain

George H. Bartell Jr., chairman emeritus of the Bartell Drug Co., and the only son of the company's founder, George Bartell Sr., died Wednesday, Jan. 21, in Mesa, Ariz. He was 92.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Just one day after the death of her father, George H. Bartell Jr., Jean Bartell Barber stood at the podium at a Bellevue Chamber of Commerce luncheon, extolling the family-run Bartell Drug chain's 118-year history in the Puget Sound region and her dad's influence on the company's success.

Because of him, the company is the oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the nation, with 55 Bartell stores in three counties — King, Snohomish and Pierce.

Mr. Bartell, chairman emeritus of the Bartell Drug Co., and the only son of the company's founder, George Bartell Sr., died Wednesday (Jan. 21) in Mesa, Ariz., near his Scottsdale retirement residence, after a brief bout with pneumonia.

He was 92.

Her father's business philosophy, said Barber, the company's third-generation vice chairman and treasurer, "was that you had to always treat your employees really well, so they could turn around and treat customers well."

Barber characterized her dad as a man of few words. "An unassuming gentleman who believed in treating everyone respectfully," added his son, George D. Bartell, of Bellevue, the company's current chairman and CEO.

After word of her father's death, Barber, of Edmonds, said she contemplated canceling her Thursday address to the group of Bellevue business leaders. "But I felt I could do it, and in a lot of respects I think it was a tribute to my father to go ahead," she said afterward.

A Seattle resident most of his life and 1934 Queen Anne High School graduate, Mr. Bartell got his start in the company at a young age, moving boxes and filling warehouse orders as he learned the business his father established in 1890 with the purchase of the Lake Washington Pharmacy at 27th Avenue and South Jackson Street.

Mr. Bartell was a store clerk, then an assistant store manager before taking charge of purchasing and merchandising for the growing chain's candy and tobacco departments. He was named company president in 1939.

In 1942, he was drafted into the Army. He served four years and was discharged as a captain at the end of World War II.

When a state law in the early 1950s required drugstore owners to be licensed pharmacists, Mr. Bartell enrolled at the University of Washington and earned a pharmacy degree in three years, graduating with honors.

In 1990, the younger Bartell became company president, and then chairman and chief executive officer in the late 1990s when the elder Mr. Bartell relinquished the chairmanship.

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Even then, he routinely came to company headquarters in Seattle's Sodo area four days a week until he turned 87.

He was involved in a number of civic activities, including top posts with the Municipal League, the Pacific Northwest chapter of the Young President's Organization and the Retail Trade Bureau. He also was affiliated with Boy Scouts and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Bartell was a member of the Rainier Club, the Seattle Golf and Country Club, the Scottish Rite Temple and Chief Executive Forum.

Barber said her father was a supporter of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and Husky football.

A longtime Queen Anne and Magnolia resident, Mr. Bartell had lived the past two years in Scottsdale.

His wife, Elizabeth, died in 2003. The couple had been married 54 years. Besides his son and daughter, Mr. Bartell is survived by son Robert Bartell, of Snohomish, and seven grandchildren.

Arrangements are pending. The family suggests memorials to the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America, P.O. Box 440408, Seattle, WA 98114, or the Salvation Army, Northwest Divisional Headquarters, P.O. Box 9219, Seattle, WA 98109.

Charles E. Brown: 206-464-2206 or cbrown@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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