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|Pierrons spend lives in pharmacy, education|
One would be hard-pressed not to find someone in Louisiana whose life hasn't been positively influenced by Walter and Nancy Pierron.
Whether it is a former student who is now a pharmacist somewhere in Louisiana or someone who frequented Walter Pierron's LakeShore Pharmacy beginning in the late 1950s, the Pierrons have dedicated their lives to helping others.
Walter Pierron graduated from Ole Miss's pharmacy school and immediately set up shop in the Lakeshore Shopping Center in 1958 when he was just 25.
"I had a busy four years … I finished pharmacy school right before I was 21, and after the Air Force I came back here in 1958," Pierron said.
He was the pharmacist for a number of local families through 1995, or when he sold his pharmacy to Brookshires.
Working as a pharmacist to a number of local families, Walter Pierron said he was afforded an opportunity to watch families grow.
"When we opened LakeShore Pharmacy in 1958, LakeShore was a new community," he said. "We had all young people, so about 85 percent of our prescriptions was for children. We watched those families grow up. There's this kid I wrote prescriptions for him ... and wrote prescriptions for his mother when she was pregnant with him — prenatal vitamins. He grew up, cleaned my store in high school. Then he went to pharmacy school and he interned with us. He worked for us before he went off. That kind of depicts how you grow up with a family."
Nancy Pierron added, "We were filling prescriptions for the grandchildren of our original patients when we closed (the pharmacy)."
"That was very rewarding," Walter Pierron said.
He recalls two customers who had a child with Hodgkin's Disease. During his youth, the child underwent a number of radiation treatments. His parents realized their son's radiation treatments would hamper his reproductive system. So at the age of 16, the parents had some of the child's sperm frozen. He later got married and his wife was impregnated with that sperm.
The Pierrons helped treat the couple before and during the pregnancy. They had twins. That was in 1997.
"That remains special in our hearts … that we had something to do with that," Walter Pierron said.
Before the LakeShore community began to grow in earnest, Walter Pierron's pharmacy was one of the few buildings there.
Before Ray's Pege opened, Walter Pierron's pharmacy was the place to go for residents living in the Lakeshore area, Nancy said.
"People used to come, hang out and have coffee at the drug store," Nancy Pierron said.
During football season, people would drop by to see paintings on the windows of the pharmacy, which were courtesy of local artist Harry Graham.
"He was a big LSU fan, and I was a big Ole Miss fan," Walter Pierron explained. "We had this bet that when they played, if Ole Miss won, Harry had to paint whatever I wanted on the drug store for free. If LSU won, he could paint whatever he wanted on there and I would pay him $65 dollars to do it. We did that for years. He finally got tired and said, 'Walter, you win whether you lose because the newspaper comes and takes a picture of it and puts it on the front page of the paper and you have free advertising, even when you lose.'"
Nancy Pierron added, "People today still want to know is there any place that does the signs on the windows when LSU and Ole Miss play."
While looking through some photographs Wednesday at his home, Walter Pierron said, "Well, it doesn't seem like I have any pictures of when Ole Miss won."
"But on Sunday morning the cars would be lined up to come and see the signs that Harry painted," he said.
The Pierrons say the pharmacy business has changed tremendously since the time they started their careers. In those days, pharmacists were not allowed to speak at all to patients about the name of prescription drugs, what they were for or any side effects the prescription drugs may cause.
"It had to all come from the doctor," Nancy Pierron said. "Now we are required to speak about this to the patient. We had no computers, no third-parities … nobody had an insurance card. Everybody paid for their medicine and they sent their claim to the insurance companies, which reimbursed them."
The average price for a bottle of prescription medicine back then was $3.25, Walter Pierron said.
"We used to sell a bottle of insulin back then for a dollar and a half," he said. "Can you believe that?"
Nancy went to work for Walter Pierron when she was 26 years old. That was in 1969.
The attractive young woman with the bee-hive hairdo eventually fell for the die-hard Rebel fan from Wisner and she remained with him at his pharmacy through 1995. She eventually followed Walter, who began a teaching career at then-Northeast Louisiana University.
Walter Pierron started teaching pharmacy at NLU in 1995. Nancy Pierron joined him at what had become the University of Louisiana-Monroe in 2005.
Hundreds of students were taught by the Pierrons at ULM's pharmacy school. Today, if one is a pharmacist working in Louisiana, chances are they were taught by the Pierrons.
The Pierrons take pride in bringing "real world experience" into their classrooms. They continue to receive correspondence from former students thanking them for teaching them the tools of the trade. Many of their former students have gone on to become pharmacists themselves.
"This is why we taught … because of the students," Walter Pierron said.
The Pierrons keep all correspondence from all of their students and proudly show them to anyone who is interested in finding out what the former students have been up to over the years.
The Pierrons have been known to travel across the country to see their former students … see how successful they have become … see the families they have started … and hear the stories of how they are now making a difference in people's lives, too.
Walter Pierron proudly recalls a former employee calling him one day and asking if he would present her son's Eagle Scout award to him during his special ceremony. She saw him as a father figure, and knew he has been a big supporter of the Boy Scouts of America.
"This little girl is a pharmacist down in Mandeville, and her husband is a pharmacist, too," Walter Pierron said. "Her daddy died about the time she came to work for me, while she was going to school. I feel like an adopted daddy to her because we became so close."
"Teachers don't always know how much they impact students, I think, and we really have a love for our profession," Nancy Pierron added. "We try to instill that in our students and try to instill in them that ethics and morals have to go along with professionalism. I think they appreciate that, and they really respond to us. They know we care about them."
Walter Pierron added, "We have been practicing pharmacy all of our years, and we bring a different perspective than academia does."
When asked how it felt to have taught so many young people, Walter Pierron responded, "We have some lifelong friends."
Nancy Pierron said her husband constantly receives emails from past students asking his advice about certain issues or problems, especially if it deals with laws and regulations concerning pharmacy, which are two topics Walter Pierron knows well.
"Every pharmacist that has finished here (ULM) since 1995, I've taught," Walter said.
While the Pierrons no longer teach at ULM, Nancy Pierron said their hearts will remain there and they will continue to support the university in any manner they can.
ULM isn't the only education institution to which Walter Pierron holds dear to his hear.
The other one would be River Oaks School.
Walter Pierron and 16 others founded the school in the late 1960s.