Grisamore: ‘I’ve walked beside you in those shoes’

May 3, 2014 

Jane Hall grew up wanting to be like her mother.

Pretty. Poised. Professional. Compassionate. Always there for her family.

JoAnn Adams was a pharmacist, but not just any small-town druggist who could decipher a doctor’s scribbled handwriting and fill a prescription for penicillin.

She was a pioneer. She became the first female druggist in Gainesville in 1954. She was co-owner of Riverside Pharmacy and was recognized earlier this year by Gov. Nathan Deal for blazing the pharmaceutical trail for women 60 years ago.

The drugstore was down the hill from their house. JoAnn could walk to work faster than you could whistle the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Between their home and the pharmacy was a park and swimming pool. For Jane, that was paradise. She taught swimming lessons and stayed in the deep end so long her water-logged fingers would wrinkle. She was a lifeguard and worked on her suntan.

Everyone in the community knew and loved her mama. But as much as Jane wanted to be just like her, she wasn’t sure about following in her mother’s white tunic. She fancied going off to college to major in physical education.

She was a pool girl, not a pill girl.

That changed when she graduated from Gainesville High and declared pre-pharmacy as her major at the University of Georgia. She found herself pulled in both directions after she came home and did an internship at her mother’s pharmacy one summer. On opening day for the pool, she saw a group of children lining up.

She cried when it dawned on her she could have been at the pool “instead of counting pills.”

Her mother looked on the sunny side and teased her. She told her she “could probably become the first pharmacist with a sun roof.”

Jane shared something in common with her mother besides earning a degree from the UGA pharmacy school. She graduated on June 13, 1975. It was a Friday the 13th. JoAnn graduated on June 13, 1947. It, too, was a Friday the 13th.

David Dukes was a pharmacy major from Hulett and had gone to high school in Villa Rica. He and Jane started dating in March 1974 and were engaged by the time they graduated the following spring.

They married in July, moved to Macon and both went to work for Eckerd. They wanted to be with the same company but not at the same store. That way, they could work the same shifts.

David was assigned to the Eckerd next to the old Kmart on Riverside Drive, which is now the Hutchings Career Center.

Jane could brag that she had a mother who worked at Riverside Pharmacy and a husband who worked at a pharmacy on Riverside -- 133 miles apart.

She was hired at the Eckerd at the newly opened Macon Mall. It was exciting -- and perhaps more challenging than it should have been.

“I was raised in a town where my mother was a pharmacist,” she said. “That was normal to me. When I came to Macon, I was the only full-time female pharmacist in retail. People would come up, look right past me and say there’s no way you’re the pharmacist.”

The Dukeses settled into life in Macon. They put down roots and were blessed with three children -- Laura, Adam and Ben. Jane was involved in their lives, just as her mother had been in the lives of her own four children. Jane became a Girl Scout leader, president of the PTO at Tinsley Elementary and a Sunday School teacher at the First Baptist Church of Christ.

In June 1994, David was transferred to the new Eckerd farther down Riverside Drive at the corner of Pierce Avenue (now a Rite-Aid.) Three weeks after the grand opening, the Great Flood of 1994 made its historic mark.

The water level was so high they couldn’t get in and out of the front door. They saved rolls of film that customers had dropped off to be developed.

“We had to crawl out the drive-thru window,” Jane said.

At least she could swim.

David was already seven months into a struggle with something much more serious than rising floodwaters.

In December 1993, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Jane quit work to care for him. Her mother would drive from Gainesville to help with the children.

David died on March 15, 1995, two days before the cherry blossoms bloomed. He was 43 years old. “(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow” was played on the piano at his funeral.

Jane made plans to return to work in the fall. She was now a single mother and had to provide for her family. She had worked some for Powell’s Pharmacy on Riverside, but her prayers were answered when she was approached by Hugh Cromer of Lawson & Cromer on the square in Forsyth. (It’s now the U-Save-It and located on the corner stretch of buildings along West Johnston Street next to the Rose Theater and Grits Cafe.

It was a 42-mile round trip commute to Forsyth, and her children were in the fourth, sixth and ninth grades. She worked part time for four years, then became full time 15 years ago.

In 1996, she took sons Adam and Ben to Bike Tech on Vineville Avenue. John Hall was working there. Trying to determine the correct size bicycle for growing boys, John asked Jane how tall her husband was. She told him she was widowed.

He later asked her out. She laughed and said she would have to get permission from her children. They all gave the “bike guy” an enthusiastic thumbs up.

John and Jane dated for eight years before marrying in 2004. John was a blessing to the Dukes children. (John’s mother, the late Pat Tucker, was the first hospice nurse in Macon.)

“The Lord blessed me twice with two good men,” Jane said.

In an era where pharmacies can be found in grocery stores and retail chains, Jane is much like her mother -- a down-home druggist who greets customers by their first names when they walk through the door.

In 2011, she was honored as Businesswoman of the Year by The Monroe County Reporter. Last week, she was named Best Pharmacist in the newspaper’s “Best of Monroe County” special section.

She hears about their ailments. She looks into their eyes. She answers the phone. (Imagine that. No recorded message.)

“I’ve been a mother with three young children so I know how that feels to have sick children,” she said. “I had a husband who had cancer and died. My father had a stroke and died (three years ago), and my mother is suffering from some dementia.

“You take the time to listen and care about their families and what they’re going through,” she said. “When you’ve been there, you don’t mind saying: ‘I know where you are. I’ve walked beside you in those shoes.’ ”

JoAnn Adams, who typed out prescription labels on a typewriter, retired in the 1980s when computers came along. At age 86, the dementia has chipped away at her memory.

One week from today is Mother’s Day. Jane will hold dear to her mama, a lady who did more than just count pills. She dispensed life lessons, cared about people and always did the right thing.

Like mother, like daughter.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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