July 26, 1934 — May 25, 2018
In a world large pharmacy chains, Joseph M. Rutowski kept his family pharmacy business going on a foundation of personal service and neighborhood commitment. He was still active in the business up until his death May 25 in Clarence at age 83.
Mr. Rutowski was born in Buffalo and lived in Western New York all his life, graduating in 1951 from Canisius High School, where he has a place in the Hall of Honor, and earning bachelor of science degrees in biology and pharmacy from the University at Buffalo. He was a member of the Rho Chi Honor Society- Academic Honor Society in Pharmacy, and received the Galen Pharmaceutical Award
In November 1959, he married the former Martha Rollek, a registered nurse.
After working as a pharmacist for many years, Mr. Rutowski purchased Tile Pharmacy on Cleveland Drive in Cheektowaga in 1978, beginning the business that would become J. Rutowski Pharmacies. Over time he expanded with four more local stores, which are run by four of his sons: Sinclair Pharmacy in Warsaw, Wanakah Pharmacy in Hamburg, Cy’s Pharmacy in Elma and Kenmore Rx Center in Kenmore.
He received the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award, and in 2010 talked about his business with that paper.
“I would say the key to our success has been the fact that we always put the customer first,” he told the newspaper. “We know the people who live in our neighborhoods. Very often we have served their parents and even their grandparents before them. We call them by their first names in many cases and we fulfill their needs as friends and neighbors, not just as pharmacists.”
He also recalled for the Eagle how he and his wife worked seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. when they opened their first store, bringing in their six children to help as they got old enough.
“All of us understood that giving personal service to our customers in the communities we served was more important than anything,” he said.
He and his family have continued their commitment to the profession by endowing two scholarships at D’Youville College, the J. Rutowski Pharmacies Scholarship and the Rutowski Family Scholarship.
In 2009, J. Rutowski Pharmacies was recognized by Business First as one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies in Western New York, and last year Mr. Rutowski received the Pharmacist of the Year Award from the Pharmacists’ Association of Western New York, of which he was a member.
He also was a member of Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church in Cheektowaga and the Knights of Columbus, Father Justin Council, 5670 Third and Fourth Degree.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Rutowski is survived by his sons, Joseph A., John F., Jerome M., James J., and Jeffrey M.; his daughter, Ann Marie Kakavand; 14 grandchildren, one great-grandson, and many nieces and nephews.
A Mass was held May 31 at Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church.