NEW YORK (JTA) — Alex Grass, the founder of the Rite Aid pharmacy chain and a prominent Jewish philanthropist, has died.
Grass died Aug. 27 of respiratory failure at his family home in Harrisburg, Pa. He was 82.
He turned a discount store in Scranton, Pa., into the national Rite Aid chain, which now has 4,900 stores and last year had $24 billion in sales, according to The New York Times.
Grass was a member of the United Jewish Communities/Federation board of trustees and was a past national chair of the United Jewish Appeal, one of UJC’s predecessor organizations, according to the UJC. He also served as chair of the Jewish Agency board of governors and was a member of the executive committee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Grass was a chair of the board of governors of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where a drug research center is named for him, according to the UJC, as well as a number of local Jewish charities.
He was the past president of the Harrisburg United Jewish Community, and was the general chair of the Harrisburg United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds campaigns. Grass also was a member of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg’s board of directors, according to the UJC.
Grass came from a poor family, but after graduating from law school he married into a prominent Pennsylvania family that owned a regional grocery chain, according to The New York Times.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that pharmacies no longer had to charge a minimum mandated price for drugs, Grass bought the Thrif D Discount Center in Scranton and within six years added 50 stores. In 1969 he took the company public and changed the name to Rite Aid.