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Arbor Drugs founder Eugene Applebaum dies at 81

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Eugene Applebaum, a Detroit native who trained to be a pharmacist and became a successful businessman and a major philanthropist, died Friday at his Bloomfield Hills home.

Mr. Applebaum, a Wayne State University graduate, was a pharmacist before founding Arbor Drugs and then went on to donate millions of dollars to health care education and health care jobs, as well as cancer research.

In 1963, he founded a single drug store at the corner of Greenfield Road and Michigan in Dearborn. Over 35 years, Arbor Drugs opened 208 stores.

In 1998, CVS Corp,, the parent company of CVS Pharmacy stores, purchased Arbor Drugs for $1.48 billion. At the time of the sale, Arbor was the eighth largest drugstore chain in the nation and held a 45 percent market share in Metro Detroit.

The Troy-based chain was considered one of the last viable independent drug store chains before the sale.

“I had a wonderful ride, a wonderful time,: Mr. Applebaum told The Detroit News shortly after the 1998 sale.

He then set up a Bloomfield Hills office for Arbor Investments Group to oversee his financial holdings and philanthropic enterprises. Mr. Applebaum often credited the values taught by his parents, Joseph and Minnie Applebaum, for his commitment to the community.

In 1998, he contributed the largest individual gift in the history of Wayne State University that helped fund construction of a new home for health education. The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building opened in 2002.

He committed much of his giving to medical research and education.

In 1999, he co-founded the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and in 2006, Beaumont Hospital opened the Marcia and Eugene Applebaum Surgical Learning Center, the first facility of its kind in the country. He and his wife’s philanthropy donated to The Mayo Clinic, where a floor in a major building on its Minnesota campus is named for the Applebaums.

Enriching the Jewish community in and around his hometown was another focus. In 1999, he and his wife Marcia’s donation led to the naming of the 195-acre Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus in West Bloomfield. One of his favorite places, the Fresh Air Society’s Camp Maas in Ortonville now features the Applebaum Village.

Mr. Applebaum was recognized for his charitable donations.

In 2013, he received the Fred M. Butzel Award, the Jewish community’s highest honor, from The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. In 2014, the Applebaums received the Max M. Fisher Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Detroit Chapter of The Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2015, he received the Leonard N. Simons Lifetime Achievement Award presented by The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan.

Along with his wife of 56 years, Eugene Applebaum is survived by his daughters, Lisa and Pamela, and four grandchildren.

Funeral services are planned for Monday, December 18, 2017, at 2 p.m. at the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN