Gentlemanly south Auckland pharmacist inspired loyalty


Gentlemanly south Auckland pharmacist inspired loyalty

Jojoa Burling
3 minutes to Read
Murray Guy in a dispensary
Murray Guy worked as a pharmacist for 47 years but said if he had the choice, he’d do it all again [Image: Supplied]

If he had his time over again, he would still choose to be a pharmacist

George Murray Guy was a pharmacist for 47 years but had no regrets and said if he had his time again, he would do it all again. Mr Guy, who was known as Murray, is described as a gentleman, who inspired loyalty in his employees, some of whom worked for him for decades.

Mr Guy passed away on 15 August at home in Papakura at the age of 87. He was born 24 June 1936. He and his wife Pam, who was also a pharmacist, owned Guys Pharmacy (now Life Pharmacy Papakura) between 1968 and 2001. Tony Easteal bought into the business in 1987 and the Guys’ son Michael Guy bought his parents’ half of the business in 2001.

Around 400 people packed into Christ Church, the Anglican church in Papakura, for Murray’s funeral on 21 August. Present were family, friends, ex-employees, pharmacists, colleagues, Rotary members, and local doctors and politicians, including Papakura MP Judith Collins. The pharmacy closed for a couple of hours so staff could attend.

The large number of people who attended the service shows how respected he was, says Michael. The family also received cards and emails from patients “all over the place” and 500 messages via social media.

Staff stayed for decades 

Some employees stayed at the pharmacy for up to 40 years because they wanted to work with his dad, explains Michael. A couple of people have told him his dad was “the kindest man ever”.

“People who knew him said he was extremely kind and caring and looked after people, and staff said they enjoyed going to work and working with him, which was nice,” he adds.

Mr Easteal agrees the pharmacy had a lot of long-term staff because people liked working with Murray. “He was a gentlemanly pharmacist from that era,” he says.

Former Care Chemist Papakura (now Unichem Papakura Pharmacy) owner Melanie Baker worked at Guys Pharmacy for nine years in the 1990s. Mrs Baker says Murray was a “lovely boss, a nice man and a real gentleman”. He was always interested in his staff and their lives. “It was an honour to work for him,” she says.

Mrs Baker knew some of Murray’s staff who worked at the pharmacy for 30 years.

Even when Mrs Baker bought her own business at the other end of town, he would come to say hello: “He always used to poke his head into my pharmacy.”

Michael says his father loved being a pharmacist: “If he had his time over again, he would still choose to be a pharmacist, he had no regrets after 47 years.”

“He just liked helping people.”

Big changes since the 1960s 

Murray and Pam started Guys Pharmacy in 1968, after marrying the previous year. Life Pharmacy Papakura is now three times bigger than the original shop but is still in the same spot at Roselands Shopping Centre, formerly Roselands Drive-In Centre.

Attitudes to pharmacists have hopefully changed since then. At the funeral, most pharmacists and doctors laughed when a story was told of Murray, in the 1960s, telling a customer all the ingredients in a medicine he had given them.

The person went straight back to their doctor and gave the medicine back. The doctor said there was no need for patients to know what was in their medicines and Murray should stick to dispensing.

Graduating at the end of 1960, Murray worked in Nelson and Wellington. He was the liaison secretary for the International Pharmacy Students’ Association and was invited to the UK for an international conference and ended up staying two years.

Returning in 1965, he worked in Ōpōtiki as a relief pharmacist at Ōpōtiki Hospital, where his father was the charge radiographer, his mum was a senior nurse and his sister Margaret was nurse in charge of the children’s ward.

An innovator 

Murray was a bit of an innovator, says Michael. “With other guys he tried a lot of things that worked out for them.” Murray started Kroma Colour Print in 1976 with six others, including brother-in-law John Guthrie.

Murray was also involved in starting Unichem Pharmacy Group in 1981, a buying group that eventually evolved into Green Cross Health.

“He started from scratch, we’re just trying to continue that,” says Michael.

Michael and Mr Easteal now own another three pharmacies: Counties Care Pharmacy, Unichem Karaka Pharmacy and Pōkeno Pharmacy.

Rotary, politics, health and singing 

Murray had many interests outside work. He was involved with Rotary for 52 years, including time as president of the Rotary Club of Papakura in 1985. As recently as last week, he was at the branch.

Elected to Papakura District Council 1993, he served three years: “He decided he liked his community, but didn’t like the scheming of politics,” explains Michael.

Murray served on Counties Manukau DHB board, was a pharmacy advisor to health and disability commissioner Ron Paterson, chair of Totara Hospice in south Auckland and a Justice of the Peace.

Singing was a large part of his life. He was a member of the choir of Christ Church Cathedral in Nelson and later was chair of South Auckland Choral.

Says Michael: “The main thing is, Dad was all about the family and community and giving back, which is why so many people turned up to his funeral.”

Murray Guy is survived by wife Pam, children Alison, Helen, Michael and Kristin, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.