Founder of Rite-Aid dies

HARRISBURG, Pa. - August 28, 2009 Grass, 82, died Thursday night at his Harrisburg home after a decade-long battle with the disease, his daughter, Elizabeth Grass Weese of Baltimore, said Friday.

Grass also was a philanthropist who contributed to civic, health and educational organizations.

"Alex Grass was larger than life," said Rabbi Peter Kessler of Harrisburg's Temple Ohev Sholom, where Grass was a member and where a funeral is scheduled for Sunday. "He was a great friend to many in his community and throughout the world."

Born in Scranton, Pa., and educated as a lawyer, Grass' business career took off after he bought a small health and beauty aids store, the Thrif D Discount Center, in Scranton in 1962. He had expanded the business to 50 stores and renamed it by the time it went public in a $25-a-share stock offering in 1968.

By the time he stepped down as the company's chairman and chief executive officer in 1995, Rite Aid was the nation's largest drugstore chain in terms of total stores and No. 2 in terms of revenue.

His son, Martin Grass, ran the Camp Hill, Pa.-based company for several years but was ousted in 1999 after he was implicated in an accounting scandal that nearly destroyed the company. The younger Grass is serving a federal prison term for conspiracy stemming from an overstatement of Rite Aid's earnings in the late 1990s.

The elder Grass' legacy includes a $14.5 million medical building named after him at PinnacleHealth's Harrisburg Hospital and $1.5 million to establish the Alex Grass School of Business Leadership at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Grass also contributed $1.5 million to the University of Florida, where he earned his law degree, to establish a chair for its Center for Jewish Studies and build a new law school building.

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