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Pritz, 78, was a pharmacist and visionary

Family called him "the Walt Disney of Joliet"

Ken Pritz
Ken Pritz

JOLIET – Ken Pritz, 78, was a pharmacist called "the Walt Disney of Joliet" by his family because of his vision on projects, including the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate.

Pritz died Sunday from cancer, and services are planned for next week.

Pritz bought J.D. Brown & Company, considered the oldest pharmacy in Illinois, in 1964 from the Brown family. He and his wife Carol bought the Jacob Henry Mansion in 1985 and restored it to become one of Joliet's premier banquet and meeting facilities.

"He was the one who would take you out in the backyard and say, 'Can you envision this? This is what we're going to build,'" said daughter Sue Pritz-Bornhofen. "He was the dreamer. He was the visionary. The kids called him Walt Disney. He was the Walt Disney of Joliet."

Pritz was also a practical businessman who adapted J.D. Brown, which first opened in 1844, during decades when most independent pharmacies closed.

"With changes in the community, we've changed what we provide," said his son James Pritz, a pharmacist and owner at the store. James said his father "wore all the hats" at the store.

"He was the pharmacist and the business manager," his son said.

Both J.D. Brown and the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate are owned and operated by several family members and will continue under family ownership.

Pritz-Bornhofen said her father left her a to-do list.

"I said, 'Dad, they will be finished,'" she said. "We've got a lot to carry on here. But they will be carried on."

Visitation will be 2 to 8 p.m. Monday at Carlson Holmquist Sayles Funeral Home, 2320 Black Road. The funeral service will be at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Old Central Church, 15 Richards St.

The Old Central Church is owned by the Pritz family. It is adjacent to the Jacob Henry Mansion. The family acquired the property in 2004, using the church for weddings and converting a large meeting space into the Victorian Ballroom to accommodate large banquets and meetings.

The church was no longer in use and deteriorating when the Pritz family acquired it. Both the church and mansion were built by 19th century railroad magnate Jacob A. Henry.

"We just wanted to save the building," Pritz said in a Herald-News interview in 2004 as he talked about Carol's winning bid for the Jacob Henry Mansion. "We really didn't know what we were going to do with it. We were going into it blind."

Pritz recounted in another interview his almost coincidental acquisition of J.D. Brown & Company.

He had arranged to buy another store, Pritz told The Herald-News in 1999. When he gave two-weeks notice and told the Brown family his plans, he was asked "'Why don't you buy this one?'" Pritz said. "I didn't think I'd ever get the opportunity."

The store was among 106 companies recognized as "Retailers of the 20th Century" in 2000 by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

J.D. Brown will be closed Tuesday, the day of the funeral, to honor Ken Pritz.

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