by Cate Murway
American Jewish WWII Veteran, Army T-4 Sergeant Isadore “Izzy” Brosbe, Burlington H.S.’32, PCP ’36 was the youngest licensed pharmacist ever to graduate from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy [now University of the Sciences]. According to his radiologist son, Dr. Robert J. Brosbe, Isadore wants to be the oldest living licensed pharmacist! He had been a practicing pharmacist for 61 years.
The meaning of Isadore is "gift of Isis".
Izzy and his wife, Brooklyn born Harriet [Katz] Brosbe, Burlington H.S. ’42, Rider College for accounting, currently reside in Lakewood, N.J. after living in Bristol on the Delaware and Bristol Township and owning Brosbe’s Drug Store from 1948 until 1986, professionally servicing his customers for 38 or 39 years until he sold his business at the age of 72.
One of his customers, Senator Joseph Ridgway Grundy, proprietor of the Bristol Worsted Mills, would come in for eyewash.
The entire town called Senator Grundy “Mr. Republican”.
“Are you registered to vote?” Joe Grundy asked Isadore.
He admitted he wasn’t.
“What time do you open up?”
Izzy usually opened at 7:00 a.m.
“You’re opening up at 9:00 a.m.
My driver will be downstairs at 7:00 a.m. in the Buick
to take you to Doylestown to register Republican.”
The Pharmacist registered Republican.
Isadore’s Mother, Mamie Cohn migrated from Russia when she was 15 years old and his father, Simon Brosbe, who came from Lithuania, fought in the Russo-Japanese War. They raised their family of two sons in Burlington, N.J. Burlington is a small town and Isadore was a friend of Harriet’s late brother, Milton Katz, a Temple University School of Pharmacy graduate who had originally considered purchasing the Gelman’s Pharmacy location on 310 Mill Street.
Harriet’s brother said to Izzy, “Why do you want to bother with a kid like that?”
On January 12, 1947, Rabbi Smith married Izzy and the “kid” in her parents’ home in Burlington, on a “beautiful sunny, very warm day”. Her matron of honor was her sister-in-law, the late Marcia Katz.
Izzy’s younger brother, Edwin, PCP ’40, who enlisted into the Army right before Pearl Harbor, lives in Oregon and is a retired Veterans Administration research bacteriologist. His dad was a horse and buggy drawn junk dealer; a dealer in old metal, glass, paper, rags, etc. Isadore decided that profession was just too much work!
He started his first job in 1930, working in a drug store when he was just 14 years old. It was considered to be a modern pharmacy since they had an indispensable tool, a manual typewriter. His hours were long, from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. During the summers in his college years, he would also answer the emergency phone calls from midnight until 8:00 a.m., sleeping periodically on a couch. Great preparation for his own long business hours and hard work on Mill Street, working 80 hours a week!
Saturday's child works hard for a living.
Joseph Richard [Joe] Mullay, RPh, Woodrow Wilson/Temple University School of Pharmacy ’73, has been the pharmacist at Windsor Pharmacy in Levittown for 30 years. In his youth, he worked as a driver for Alan Joseph Vogenberg, PCP ‘55 at Alan’s Pharmacy on Bath and Buckley. All the pharmacists were very friendly- if one were closed, the patron could go to another one and they would settle. At that time, the pharmacists traded stock back and forth and Joe would often pick up items at Brosbe’s.
“Isadore was always there, always jovial, and he knew everyone by name!”
Harriet worked in Harry Belopolsky’s general practice of law in Burlington while Isadore was serving in the Army from September 1942 until Christmas Day 1945.
There were only 30 servicemen in his field hospital outfit and he shared, “It was like a M.A.S.H. unit.”
Izzy originally sought to enlist in the Navy but he was refused, as he was 20 pounds underweight. He drank gallons of milkshakes and inhaled banana splits to pack on the needed pounds and he joined the Army!
He unselfishly served as an Army pharmacist in North Africa and then in the China Burma India Theater. Harriet claims, “He doesn’t like rice to this day”.
Izzy and his men successfully flew through the varied weather conditions and geographical regions over “the Hump”, the Himalayas between India and southwestern China. This necessitated flying over northwestern Burma, territory patrolled by Japanese fighters. The lowest peaks reached 16,000 feet and the aircrews had to operate at altitudes approaching 20,000 feet, a formidable task given the limitations of the aircraft.
They were always stationed near a lake so they could filter the water through charcoal filters and then distilled it to make the IV’s. He suffered just “minor injuries, nothing major.”
Isadore and Harriet Brosbe originally lived above their store. “Bristol was a very friendly town and Mill Street was very busy. The men were working inside the stores and the women would be outside talking until their help was needed.”
The pedestrian shoppers came to buy, not just to look!
Harriet worked as a cosmetician, since each company they represented, such as Max Factor, Revlon and Chanel and Prince Matchabelli perfumes, sent her to classes to learn their product line. This was a big business for them since these companies wouldn’t sell to anyone else within 20 miles. When Neshaminy Mall and Strawbridge & Clothier opened up and sold cosmetics, Izzy went to school to learn about surgical garments and personal safety devices, such as belts and trusses.
They raised their 3 children, Rita, Woodrow Wilson H.S. ‘67/Stern College, NY ‘71, a NJ social worker in the Jewish Federation; Lancaster residents, Dr. Robert J., Neshaminy H.S. ’72/ Ursinus College, MCP ‘79 & his wife, Dr. Donna [Loeffler]; and Delaware resident Geri, Neshaminy H.S. ’75, a respiratory therapist at Dupont Hospital, in Bristol Township on Fairview Avenue near the natural spring water and wells on Bath Street.
Their youngest daughter took art lessons from the renowned sculptor Joseph Edward Pavone. They are blessed with 6 grandchildren.
Dr. Bob shared, “I made deliveries for my dad and spent a lot of time with him in the store. When we moved across the street to 327 Mill Street, I ran “Robert’s store” at the 310 location until it was occupied.” The new store and the 3 children were pictured in the newspaper with the caption, “What we gave Dad for Father’s Day”.
A twin son of Norman Haines and Betty June Shull, Jeffrey Curtis, BHS ’73, PCP ‘78 was the pharmacist at Asa Fabian’s Pharmacy after his parents retired. “Bristol was a great town to grow up in. I miss the town and the people. The customers were children of my father’s customers. Isadore Brosbe is a very respected gentleman and the independent pharmacists would call him with questions. He is a stand up gentleman!”
Bristol Day was always a big event on Mill Street! Brosbe’s demonstrated an electric stair display for the disabled in front of their store and Harriet rode up and down the steps. Izzy helped to sell tickets for the horse drawn coach and the trolley rides. Their neighbors were Ballow's Shoes, Pearson Feed store and Paroly’s dress shoppe. They enjoyed Italian spaghetti dinners at the Keystone Hotel. One summer many famous actors and actresses performed at the original Grand Theater owned by producer, John Kenley and the red-haired, green-eyed British actress Sarah [Millicent Hermione Spencer] Churchill became one of their customers.
“Bubbie” and “Zeyde” belonged to the Bristol Jewish Center on 216 Pond Street and they are the only surviving members from when it was located in “an unpretentious building in the 100 block of Pond Street”, the 119 Pond Street location. It was at one time the only synagogue between Philadelphia and Morrisville. Isadore was on the committee of the 100-year ceremony celebration and Harriet is a former President of the Sisterhood.
“Izzy is a very well known pharmacist, held in very high regard”, shared Alan Vogenberg, treasurer and caretaker of the Bristol Jewish Center.
Isadore is proud of his many American Legion and Jewish War Veteran awards, especially of the flag that flew over the Capitol, given to him by Congressman Patrick Murphy. It now proudly waves over their Lakewood Courtyard home.
He also served as the midnight driver until 7:00 a.m. for the Lower Bucks and Blood Donors ambulance services. He still volunteers at a local hospital!
He belongs to the Moose and the Odd Fellows and he was a member of the Bristol Cultural & Historical Foundation.
Izzy shared, “The Bristol Lions Club (of which I am a member for about 50 years) took over the clock on Grundy Commons which had stopped working, and started it working again. The hands of this clock were made of wood, and when it rained the hands would swell and the clock would stop. The Lions Club electrified the clock, and as far as I know this clock is still running.” Time would literally have stood still if the 75-year-old [at that time] structure that dominated the Borough skyline as the centerpiece of the burgeoning revival effort in Bristol Borough hadn’t received a $20,000 facelift, courtesy of the Bristol businessman, Fred H. Baumgarten.
Time in Bristol on the Delaware continues on a heartbeat!
They participated in jitterbugging even though Izzy was told “professionals don’t do that!” and Ellen Mignoni taught them to dance the Irish jig. American jazz musician and bandleader Glenn Miller and the big bands provided their favorite music. They don’t sing. “Our voices aren’t that good!”
They are original members of the BRT and Izzy was a volunteer usher. They both always enjoyed the musicals!
There were horse and wagons when Izzy was growing up. Their first car was a black 1935 Chevrolet with no heater.
All the boys wore knickers and ties. Harriet wore skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes and bobby pinned her hair! They enjoyed Hershey bars and tastykakes for a nickel and gobbled licorice for a penny and especially loved sweet-layered pastry Strudel cake with fruit filling inside for dessert.
They drank coke that actually had cocaine in it and they lived through prohibition when one needed a narcotic prescription to get liquor from the drug store.
Everyone built a crystal radio with common household items since factory-made radios were very expensive.
Izzy claims he remembers everything but names! He could recall customers’ medicines but never their name!
Isadore and Harriet Brosbe are names Bristol on the Delaware will never forget!
To recommend a Bristol Borough Character to be spotlighted:
American Heritage Dictionary
1.Moral or ethical strength.
A description of a person's attributes, traits, or abilities
Bucks County Courier Times
Isadore Brosbe of Lakewood, N.J. passed away on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010.
He was the beloved husband of Harriet (Katz) Brosbe; father of Rita (Uziel) Sason, Robert Brosbe (Donna) and Geri Brosbe; and brother of Edwin Brosbe. He also is survived by six grandchildren.
Relatives and friends are invited to services at Noon on Sunday at Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel, 4737 Street Road, Trevose, Bucks County. Interment will be in King David Memorial Park.
Contributions in his name may be made to Fegelson Young Post 697, Jewish War Veterans, 1425 Woodbourne Road, Levittown, PA 19057. Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel,
September 12, 2010 3:53 AM
notes on a Bristol facebook page.......
Joan McConomy got me a job at Brosbe's around '59, while we were still in high school. She & I took worked different shifts delivering prescriptions to customers homes when they couldn't make it to the store. Once we helped others move the whole store across Mill St. to a new location, and did it all with shopping carts! Izzy was a doll! What great fun for a teenager.
Glad you liked my post. I learned a world of info about the Brosbe's from what you printed in the PILOT. Having worked for Mr. Izzy when I was 16 to 18 years of, I was too immature his appreciate his accomplishments in The War & Pharmacy College. I'm going to print it today. Now that I'm 68, it means so much more. I remember silly things like the "store moving," picking up his dinners from Harriet while he worked very long hours, and the cute kids. I think we drove an old 1950's car before the Volkswagen to deliver prescriptions. Then I got my cousin Mary Jo McGinley the job when I went off to college. It wasn't long after that I heard she "totaled" the delivery car. Sister Mary Jo now is Executive Director of Global Health Ministry.
Again, thanks for your posted PILOT stories.
Kathy McGinley Dotts 2.4.12
CATE, GREAT ARTICLE AND PICTURES OF THE BROSBE'S. THEY WERE THE NICEST PEOPLE.
Barbara Liberatore Court 2.4.12
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:00 am
Harriet (Katz) Brosbe died Oct. 29, 2012. She was formally of Levittown, PA.
She was the wife of the late Isadore.
She is the mother of Rita (Uziel) Sason, Robert (Donna) Brosbe and Geri Brosbe. She is also survived by 6 grandchildren.
Relatives and friends are invited to services on Thurs. Nov.1, 2012, 12:30 p.m. at Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel, 4737 Street Rd. Trevose Pa. Internment at King David Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers contributions in her memory may be made to The Jewish War Veterans. Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel, Trevose
notes on Bristol facebook page...........
Such a nice lady and family...I'll always remember Brosbe's Drug store.
Marylin Mignoni Tierney 10.31.12
Rip Mrs Brosbe....two very nice people to have know....
Mary Lucas 10.31.12
Wow, the Brosbe's he looked like that when I was growing up.
Mike Bevan 10.31.12
Nice caring people , from a time when Bristol was a lot more homie then it is today . They would go out of their way to make sure your family was well taken care of.
John Ruszin 10.31.12
RIP Mrs Brosbe..... two very very nice people......
Jonette Mosco Ruszin 10.31.12
Very nice couple. The wedding photo is gorgeous. Great article too!
Mary Galione-Nahas 10.31.12
They were such a loving couple. Harriet can now rest alongside Izzie.
Karen Dopson 10.31.12
Two Good Souls ...
George Pirollo 10.31.12
awe, so sorry.
Michelle Pone Huntley 10.31.12
r.i.p mrs "b"...............you will be missed <3
Lynne Gudovitz Rodgers 10.31.12
so sorry to read this. They were the sweetest people, and good friends with our family. So sad!
Barbara Liberatore Court 10.31.12
The Brosbe's were good to Bristol and vice versa. Respected and loved them while I was growing up.
Looking forward to seeing them in Heaven. He was one of the few Jewish people willing to drive a German car back then. A gentleman. Thank you
Pastor Ed 10.31.12
Stan said they were nice people. thanks
Thanks for sending the article about Mr. Brosbe. I went to him for medical advise more than once.
A great man.
Jeanette 'Jan' Ruano 11.1.12