Pharmacist prepares for retirement

By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer

Sitting in his chair, his arms folded across his chest, 71-year-old Walter Chambliss reflected on his life and career as a longtime Portales pharmacist. Things have certainly changed in the 42 years since he’s been in Portales, yet Chambliss said he’s not the type to dwell on the past.

“I don’t think of the old days as the good old days. I don’t use that expression,” Chambliss said. “I still came along in pretty modern times, even at my age, so the old days and old times don’t really apply to the life I have had.”

Chambliss recently announced he would soon be retiring as a pharmacist, and after 48 years, he said he’s got mixed feelings about it.

“I know I am going to miss it, and it’s a problem for me, but I have to do it because my age is beginning to tell a little bit,” Chambliss said.

Chambliss has worked at B&J Pharmacy for 42 years, first as manager, then owner and manager again.

One of the things Chambliss said has been a big change during the course of his career is technology advancements in the pharmacy industry.

Suelema Gonzales was hired by Chambliss in 1988 when she was still in high school. She remembers when they didn’t have any computers.

“When I started working there, Walter had an old-time typewriter. It was steel and heavy and Walter was the only one who used it to type the prescription labels,” Gonzales said.

One of her fondest memories will always be of Chambliss typing on the old typewriter and the frustrations it sometimes caused him.

“It was funny because if he messed up he’d roll off (the label) and throw it and have to start all over again,” Gonzales said.

Growing up in various places in Texas, Chambliss graduated from high school in San Angelo, Texas, and earned his bachelor of science and pharmacy degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He married his wife of 50 years, Frances, while in college.

“(Being married 50 years) is a great accomplishment but it hasn’t always been easy,” Frances Chambliss said. “We’ve been here since 1964, getting along day-to-day, it takes a lot of work.”

She said her husband has been mentioning retirement for awhile. She thinks it has been a long time coming and will be looking forward to the time she will have to spend with her husband.

“I’m thrilled about it really,” she said. “We have a motor home and we go on a lot of trips, but I’d like to visit some other places.”

Chambliss and his wife have three daughters, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. One of their daughters has just relocated to California and both are looking forward to the chance to visit.

Elvira Granados, Gonzales’ mother, has had Chambliss as her pharmacist since 1970. She said it’s going to take time get used to a different one.

It won’t be easy for Chambliss either, who says he was never one of those people who disliked going to work.

“You know, some people, when they get up every morning they say, ‘Oh I don’t want to go to work. I just hate to have to go to work today,’ But I have had very few days like that,” Chambliss said. “I don’t dread going to work.”

With that kind of work ethic, it’s no wonder Gonzales has as much admiration for him as she does. He was her mentor and her support system, someone she looked to as a father figure.

“He was my backbone. I looked up to him and he was there for me all throughout high school and college,” Gonzales said. “Without Walter I don’t know where I’d be. He’s meant that much to me.”

So with retirement in his near future, Chambliss said there is plenty to be done on the acreage he and his wife own to keep him busy.

“I have little hobbies and plenty to do. I just like to get outside and do the yard work, build fences and feed livestock if I have any,” he said.

Before he officially announces his retirement he will be looking for someone to replace him, which he said will probably be within the next month or two.