ELGIN - Derv's Drugs closed its doors Dec. 31 after serving the Elgin community for 39 years.

In 1905, there were three pharmacies operating in downtown Elgin. Now there are none.

Derv Fortenberry has wanted to retire for several years and has held off retirement while searching for someone to take over the business and keep a pharmacy open in Elgin. The business has been for sale for much of the past year.

Rite-Aid has purchased the business. All of the pharmaceuticals, prescription files and computer data from Derv's Drugs will be transferred to the Rite-Aid Grande Ronde Plaza store by Jan. 11.

Rite-Aid will maintain delivery service to Elgin three days a week and will continue mailing maintenance medications. They have also offered positions to Fortenberry's employees, Sharon Glasson and Joy Waters.

Glasson has worked for Fortenberry for the past 30 years and understands how much a part of the community he has become. "We thought he'd be here forever," she said.

"It doesn't work well for the community, but it's a fact of life," said Elgin City Administrator Joe Garlitz. "Derv has done everything he can."

Garlitz is a member of the Elgin Family Health Center's advisory board. The effect of the loss of the pharmacy on the clinic has been a matter of concern for several years.

Fortenberry has agreed to work part-time for Rite-Aid for the next six months in order to ease the transition for his Elgin customers.

Fortenberry purchased the Elgin drugstore in 1965, just five years after graduating from the University of Wyoming College of Pharmacy. Then, he said, 98 percent of pharmacy graduates wanted to own their own business.

"Now you just can't find someone to take it," he said.

Fortenberry and his wife, Dona Schram Fortenberry, live in Union. They have 20 grand children between them, including seven of his own.

Raised in the West, Fortenberry is an avid outdoorsman. With more time on his hands he said he's interested in learning the new horse training methods being promoted by John Lyons and Pat Parelli.

He's been a cross-country skier for the past few years and wants to complete his advanced certification in scuba diving by travelling to Hawaii.

"I don't have time to work," Fortenberry said.

Derv's Drugs is lon the corner of Eighth St. and Division in downtown Elgin. The building was built in 1897 and housed the City Drug Store in 1905. Owl Drugs and Brownell Drugs also served Elgin at that time.

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