A Part of the Community

Published on 25 June 2020

For Tom Wightman, B.S. '59, pursuing a career in pharmacy was never in question, and his choice to attend St. Louis College of Pharmacy for his pharmacy education was a decision rooted in a rich family legacy that dates back to Oct. 18, 1881, when his great-great grandmother Esther Wightman was admitted to the College.

"I didn’t have a difficult time making up my mind about what I wanted to do," Wightman said. "I have a cousin who does genealogy, and after uncovering how ingrained pharmacy is in our family history, he told me, 'You can't help it. Pharmacy is in your blood.' It feels good to have such a deep connection to a profession that I love that has served my family and community well."

Wightman Pharmacy has served the small farming community of Waterloo, Illinois, for more than 120 years. It is a place characterized by the connections and hospitality that make community pharmacies cornerstones of their communities. As patrons flow in and out of the doors of Wightman Pharmacy, they are met with friendly greetings from Tom and his son Steve, B.S. '94, and laughter.

"We really feel connected to the Waterloo community," Wightman said. "Our patients know that they can talk to us and get an honest answer, and I think it's that kind of personal connection that has kept us around and thriving."

Wightman Pharmacy was the only pharmacy in Waterloo until the 1970s, and throughout that time and into present day, the Wightmans have made an effort to adapt and respond to the needs of the community.

"Our pharmacy was the only community store, and in the old days, you stayed open until 9 p.m. because we're a farming community, and that's when people came out of the fields," Wightman recalled. "Over the years, the store has sold an assortment of products from bug spray powder and veterinary products to fireworks and wallpaper — whatever we felt the community needed."

Even before Wightman took over the family pharmacy, he spent most of his time there growing up. His fond memories — like riding his bike up and down the aisles with a neighboring girl — and his interest in history has moved him to decorate the walls of his pharmacy with large historical photographs of Main Street and the Kunster building in which the pharmacy resides. He has a glass case dedicated to memorabilia, and even some that members of the community have brought in.

When it comes to his long history with community pharmacy, Wightman continues to hold the belief that what makes pharmacy great is the feeling of joy that comes with helping people.

"Before handing down the pharmacy to Steve, I worked for 60 years, and not once did I wake up and think, 'Oh darn, I have to go to work,'" Wightman said. "I loved interacting with our community, and every day was so different from the next. There were so many things to get done that it never felt unfulfilling."

Wightman recalls that even though the College curriculum and his work schedules were demanding, he still found time to play intramural basketball and forge lifelong relationships.

"When I wasn't playing basketball and studying in the evenings, I would spend time with my friends Mike Komar [B.S. '59] and Joe Pratte [B.S. '59]," Wightman said. "For years after we graduated, we and our wives would meet for lunch every quarter or twice a year. When we were at the College, we were so busy with school and work, but we supported each other through it all."

Now retired, Wightman still resides in Waterloo, but he remains a steadfast member of his community.

"I have played trumpet in the Waterloo Municipal Band for 67 years," Wightman said. "I started as a sophomore in high school, and I have been there ever since. I haven't run for mayor or been on the school board or anything, but through the pharmacy and my family history, I feel very much a part of this community."

This story originally appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Script.

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