For Arnold H. Lazarus, a high school job as a soda jerk helped to launch a career that carried him to the top of the region's largest wholesale pharmaceutical company.
The job at Litman drugstore on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill introduced the young Mr. Lazarus to the world of pharmacy and set him on the path that would define his professional life.
In 1955, he teamed with business partner Jules Levine to found Allegheny Wholesale Drug Company. He remained there for 29 years, serving as president of the drug wholesaler until his retirement in 1984, when he sold the company.
In its heyday, the business Mr. Lazarus and Mr. Levine started was the largest wholesale pharmaceutical company in the Pittsburgh region, serving drug stores and pharmacies in Western Pennsylvania, southeast Ohio and the panhandle of West Virginia.
"They were number one at the time they sold their business," said Hillard Lazarus, son of Mr. Lazarus.
Mr. Lazarus, 92, died Saturday in Cincinnati, where he lived for the past 18 months. Before the move, he had spent his entire life in the Pittsburgh area, first in Squirrel Hill, then Churchill and Oakland.
Born Jan. 6, 1921, Mr. Lazarus grew up in Squirrel Hill. After graduating from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, he went to work for the Federal-Rice Drug Company as a salesman.
When War World II broke out, Mr. Lazarus didn't wait to be drafted, he enlisted. An Army medic, he landed in Normandy three days after D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
He ended up earning the Bronze Star for heroism when he and another man ran out into the battlefield under enemy fire to rescue a soldier who had been wounded, Hillard said.
After the war, Mr. Lazarus returned to Federal-Rice, where he met and married his wife, Belle, who was working as the secretary for the head of the company. Mr. and Mrs. Lazarus celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in October.
He ended up leaving Federal-Rice when he started Allegheny Wholesale.
When he wasn't working, Mr. Lazarus was very active in Pittsburgh Jewish and civic communities.
Mr. Lazarus also was a matchmaker of sorts, at least on the business side. He liked to broker deals by bringing people together who he thought would make good business partners.
"He just enjoyed doing it," Hillard said.
Mr. Lazarus also was a passionate Steelers, Pirates and Pitt football fan. He held season tickets for Steelers games for years and attended three Super Bowls, taking his sons to two of them.
Ever the salesman, Mr. Lazarus made sure he touted his beloved city wherever he went.
"My dad was an ambassador. He would tell people when he traveled all about Pittsburgh. He struck up friendships and got people to come to Pittsburgh," Hillard said. "He could have had a great job working for the chamber of commerce."
After moving into an independent living center in Cincinnati, where his son Bruce lived, Mr. Lazarus groused about the lack of Pittsburgh sports coverage in the Cincinnati newspapers and continued to receive the Jewish Chronicle.
"He always was and always will be a Pittsburgh sports fan, a Pittsburgh person," Bruce said.
Mr. Lazarus is survived by his wife, Belle; his sons, Hillard of Cleveland and Bruce of Cincinnati; a daughter, Geraldine Mailender of Boca Raton, Fla.; a brother, Darrell of Shadyside; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Services were held Tuesday at Congregation Beth Shalom.
Mark Belko: 412-263-1262.