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Hundreds remember Eckerd's legacy

Jack M. Eckerd, 91, was more than drugstores, say friends and associates in listing his good deeds.

Published May 24, 2004

CLEARWATER - Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to remember Jack M. Eckerd, a philanthropist and businessman who made a mark beyond the drugstores that bear his name.

During a visitation Sunday evening at Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church, friends shared stories about Mr. Eckerd, who died Wednesday after a bout with pneumonia. He was 91.

"There's so much more to Jack Eckerd than the drugstores," said Jo Lynn Smith, 41, who directs an Eckerd Youth Alternatives wilderness camp.

Mr. Eckerd set up Eckerd Youth Alternatives in 1968 to help at-risk children. Today, the programs have helped more than 60,000 youths in seven states.

"(The kids) will tell you this, that he saved their lives," Smith said. "They'd be dead or in jail without his help."

Robert Coleman, 83, a retired minister and longtime friend said there are few in the world like Mr. Eckerd. "He always said that we fellows that have the money need to invest in the education of our children. Because in 20-25 years, they'll be running this country."

Sunday, friends waited in line to extend sympathy to Mr. Eckerd's widow, Ruth. Mrs. Eckerd stood in front of a stage filled with flowers and two pictures of her husband, flanked by some of her seven children.

Donald Eastman, president of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, said Mr. Eckerd's work will persist even now that he's gone.

"The whole spirit of community building and support is the Eckerd legacy," Eastman said. "I hope to think Eckerd College, and everyone associated with that name, will try and preserve that great heritage."

In that legacy is a $10-million donation to save Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College, in the 1970s. Mr. Eckerd served as the school's president and sat on its board of trustees.

- Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report.

[Last modified May 24, 2004, 01:00:32]

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