LYNNFIELD — Brian Ambrefe’s death Friday at his Main Street business ignited an outpouring of condolences and turned Village Pharmacy into a place to mourn the beloved pharmacist.
News of the 56-year-old Norwood resident’s death spread across Lynnfield over the weekend, triggering more than 400 comments on the store’s Facebook page by Saturday evening and flooding the pharmacy’s phones with condolence calls.
“I did more counseling than business Saturday. The community is devastated,” said pharmacist Rich Frautten.
Village employees placed framed photographs of Ambrefe on store counters and well-wishers quickly surrounded the photos with flowers and filled condolence baskets with hand-written messages. Frautten said employees who worked at Village 10, 15 years ago stopped by the store to pay their respects.
Flora Formosi wiped tears from her eyes Sunday after writing a note to Ambrefe’s family and recalled Ambrefe as “a great guy” who always spared a couple of minutes to explain a prescription or share pleasantries.
“He was so personable,” she said. “You could always have five minutes with him.”
Bill Willard lives in Medford but he drove to Lynnfield for the past decade to fill prescriptions and shop at Village Pharmacy because he enjoyed Ambrefe’s banter and sunny personality.
“He had a smile on his face and the whole family gives to the community,” he said.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Philip Crawford called Ambrefe a “pillar of the community for a long time.”
“I was shocked when I heard the news. He was a healthy 56-year-old man. On behalf of the Board of Selectmen, our prayers and condolences go out to the family,” Crawford said.
Ambrefe’s son, Lyndon said the family is planning a service at a later date.
Frautten worked 23 years for Ambrefe, starting as a student, and said the pharmacist “welcomed me from day one.”
“You become a part of the family,” he said.
He said Ambrefe’s job description, in the eyes of the community that loved him, was pharmacist, mentor, teacher and friend. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children.
Town resident Thomas Dalton said it’s hard to express how much Ambrefe was loved and respected in town.
“He not only explained medications and offered advice that we trusted, but he knew everyone by name, was always smiling and joking, and was someone so many of us thought of as a friend,” he said in a statement.
Ambrefe’s father, Albert, and John Hyde, opened Village Pharmacy on Main Street in 1961. Ambrefe owned and operated the pharmacy with his sister, Debra Haraden, and brother, Robert, His other sister, Faye Omasta, also worked part-time at Village.
Part small-town pharmacy and part family museum, a weathered sign bearing the words, “Albert H. Ambrefe registered pharmacist” is mounted above Village’s front door.
“This place has been the hub of the community for a long time. It’s the kind of place where people come in and chit chat all day long,” Frautten said.
Family photos and tools of the trade formerly used by pharmacists fill shelves next to knick knacks for sale. A small sign in one aisle reads, “Got poison ivy? Get Zanfel it works!”
“Brian was your old town pharmacist,” said Crawford.