Wellington pioneer Chuck Schaefer, longtime owner of Schaefer Drugs, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 19 following complications from heart surgery.
An entrepreneur and pillar in the western communities, Schaefer opened his Wellington drugstore in 1979, when the community was in its infancy. The first drugstore in the community, it was also one of the first businesses to open in Wellington’s first shopping center.
While other businesses have come and gone, Schaefer Drugs has remained a landmark in the community for more than 40 years.
Schaefer was known for going above and beyond the pharmaceutical call of duty, opening the store outside of business hours for customers in need, as well as picking up and delivering medications to patients, if necessary, in the middle of the night.
While Schaefer’s daughter and son-in-law — Lauren and Jay Henley — took over managing the family-owned and operated business, Schaefer continued to work in the store up until a month before his passing.
“Lauren and I came into the business and started learning it and taking it over about 10 years ago so he could spend a lot more time with my daughters — his granddaughters,” Jay Henley recalled. “He picked them up from school and attended all of their activities.”
According to Henley, being involved in the life of his granddaughters was one of Schaefer’s greatest priorities.
Olivia Henley, 17, Schaefer’s oldest grandchild, is involved in the King’s Academy theater company, where she plays the stepmother in this season’s adaptation of Cinderella. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Kiersten Henley, 13, is passionate about basketball and plays shooting guard, also at TKA.
“He never missed a game, and he never missed a show. He was always there for the girls,” Henley said. “He would do anything for them. The granddaughters were what made his eyes light up.”
To this day, Schaefer Drugs customers can walk into the store and see a banner of Olivia singing, along with two pictures: one of Schaefer shooting a basketball and the other of Kiersten doing the same.
Schaefer himself played point guard at Miami Senior High School, where he was recently inducted to the hall of fame, and where he and his sweetheart (later wife) Susan were crowned homecoming king and queen.
A classic love story, Chuck and Susan Schaefer met early in life and were married for 52 years before Schaefer passed away.
“[Susan] played an intricate role in the Schaefer family and who Chuck became,” Henley said. “She was always right there by his side.”
Schaefer was also an avid reader, able to finish three books in a single week.
More so, however, than his love for basketball, work or even reading, Henley said, was Schaefer’s love for God.
“Even in the last days, when he realized that it probably wasn’t going to turn out favorably for him, he wasn’t scared. He knew the faith that he had shared with everyone,” Henley said. “He held it strong, even when there was a time where I may have been scared, like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the end, I don’t know what happens now.’ He knew and was confident in where he was going and what was next.”
According to Henley, Schaefer stepped into a leadership position in every church he attended, the most recent being Family Church West, which currently meets at TKA. Kevin Mahoney, a pastor at Family Church, was a close friend of Schaefer’s and remembers him as a great influence on those around him.
“Chuck Schaefer went to heaven, leaving a legacy of love and Christian leadership that inspired us all,” Mahoney said. “He was a leader for Jesus who lived out the Lord’s greatest commandments, to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’ and next, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Mahoney shared a Sunday school class with the Schaefers for a time, long enough for the pharmacist to leave his mark on his church family.
“I am a better person today as a follower of Jesus and husband, father, friend and pastor because of the influence of Chuck,” Mahoney said. “He will be deeply missed.”
Schaefer’s loving influence extended well beyond his own family and his church family. His gracious character was a constant at work as well, according to former employee Jessica Leow.
“Mr. Schaefer was an exceptional man. He always put others before himself,” Leow said. “I can think of numerous times he opened the store early for patients who needed medicine, answering the phone before 7 a.m. when the store opens at 9 a.m.”
Leow worked at Schaefer Drugs for four years and said that she remembers the store’s founder as even choosing to work a night shift so another pharmacist could have the night off.
Schaefer Drugs continues to distribute crucial medication to people and animals — household, equine and exotic — following the beloved pharmacist’s legacy.
“He treated his employees very generously. He always had a smile on his face, and was happy to see us every morning,” Leow said. “I loved working for him, and I always felt like I was a part of the family.”
Schaefer was predeceased by his parents Marjorie and Vincent Schaefer, and son Steven. He is survived by his wife Susan, his daughter Lauren, son-in-law Jay and his grandchildren Olivia and Kiersten.
A celebration of life was held Monday, Feb. 24 at Family Church Downtown in West Palm Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests making a memorial donation to the King’s Academy at www.tka.net/allin.