By  on February 12, 2007

Charles R. Walgreen Jr., son of the founder of the 105-year-old drugstore chain Walgreen Co., died in his sleep Saturday at his home in Northfield, Ill. He was 100 years old.

Born in Chicago on March 4, 1906, to drugstore entrepreneur Charles R. Walgreen and his wife, Myrtle Norton, the younger Walgreen began working for the family business at age nine, making deliveries from his father's second store located on Chicago's South Side.

After graduating from the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy in 1928, he held various positions within the company before becoming vice president in 1933, executive assistant to his father in 1935 and president shortly before the senior Walgreen's death in 1939.

Walgreen served as the company's president from 1939 to 1963 and as chairman from 1963 to 1976. During his tenure, Walgreen Co.'s annual sales grew from $72 million to $817 million.

Today, Walgreens operates more than 5,460 stores that in 2006 generated $47.4 billion in sales.

After his retirement, he spent much of his time sailing around the globe on his yacht, but kept an office at the firm's Deerfield, Ill., headquarters.

His personal mission, according to the company, was to raise the professional stature and working conditions of pharmacists. To that end, he gradually reduced pharmacists' hours at his stores from the industry average of about 66 hours a week in 1939 to 40 hours. In the Fifties, the executive put his stamp on the drugstore retail business by converting Walgreens stores from a clerk-assisted shopping environment to self-service, which is now the norm in chain drugstores. A decade later, he helped carve out the supercenter retail phenomenon by opening large-format stores.

Walgreen was an active member of the industry, serving as president of both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (1945) and the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (1970), as well as honorary president of the American Pharmaceutical Association (2001).

He is survived by his wife, Jean Walgreen; three children, Charles R. Walgreen III, James Alan Walgreen and Leslie Ann Pratt, along with 23 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.

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