George Edwin Royall Jr., known by most as Ed, made a lasting impact on the town he lived in, worked in and loved.
“He lived through a lot of change and a lot of history,” said Jason Couch, a pharmacist at Elk Pharmacy and historian for the town of Elkin.
Couch said Royall was a great source for his history book titled “Elkin.” When he was working on it, Couch said he visited Royall several times. “He was a good friend and very generous with his time,” he said. “He loaned me some of his materials, and some of them are in my book.”
Even after he moved into the Trinity Elms Nursing and Rehab in Clemmons, Couch said Royall’s memory was sharp. “He got to where he couldn’t see well,” he said, “but as far as information, he was a neat guy to talk to. He lived through a lot of change and a lot of history.”
Royall passed away a week ago today, having turned 95 less than a month before. Most people who knew him have a story to share, and it is those stories that will bring comfort to his family and friends for years to come.
Dr. Jim Harrell Sr., who recently retired as an Elkin dentist, grew up with Royall. “He was about two to three years older than me,” Harrell said, “and his mother and father were close friends with my mother and father.”
Harrell said he had a lot of respect for Royall. “He was a good community man,” he said, “and a good person. I always appreciated his support of the church.”
Like Harrell, Royall was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Elkin
Couch said Royall worked as a soda jerk for his father, George Edwin Royall Sr., at Royall Drug on West Main Street growing up. After graduating from Elkin High School in 1937, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to pharmacy school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Upon completing his education in 1942, Royall joined the U.S. Army, serving as a medic in World War II.
Gill Ripley of Bridge Street Pharmacy, who started out working for Royall and his partner, Henry Dillon, said Royall talked to him about his service in the war. “A lot of the stories he would share involved his role as a medic,” he said. “It was an interesting time for him.”
When the war ended, Ripley said Royall told him he had an opportunity to remain in the Army and work in post-war Europe. “The way that he would tell the story,” he said, “was that he said, ‘Dad, I have an opportunity here, but if you need me at home, I’ll come.’”
Royall told Ripley that his father, who served three terms as Elkin’s mayor, said he needed him, so he returned home to work for him at Royall Drug. When George Edwin Royall Sr. retired in 1969, his son took over the family business.
Royall married Jean Byrd, who also worked with him at Royall Drug, and they had two sons, George Edwin “Eddie” Royall III, who preceded him in death, and Robert Royall, who lives in Elkin, and four daughters, Jane Royall of Taylorsville, Clara Martin of Taylorsville, Carole Bodenhamer of Clemmons and Sara Royall Hemric of North Wilkesboro. Royall had six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Ripley, originally from Illinois, attended pharmacy school at the University of North Carolina with two students from Elkin, Steve Brown and Chris Morrison. Brown, who is now at Rite-Aid Pharmacies in Elkin, had done an internship working three summers for Royall and told Ripley about him when he graduated and started looking for a job.
After working for Royall and Dillon at their Bridge Street Pharmacy, Ripley ended up buying it from them about 20 years ago.
“Ed was a very, very smart man,” Ripley said, “and a very good student. A lot of times, we compared the course of study that he had and the course of study that I had in the 1960s … and we were always talking about how our educations were different.
“We went to the same school 30 years apart.”
Ripley said Royall talked with his customers and knew them well. “He also knew who their parents and grandparents were,” he said. “Filling prescriptions was something he had been doing for their families for 50 years.
“Ed was also meticulous and precise in what he did and what he expected of the pharmacists who worked with him.”
Brown said Royall taught him about customer service. “When I found out a couple of days ago that he had passed away,” he said, “I told my coworkers that he said to treat people the right way, and to treat everyone the same.”
Royall always walked his talk, Brown said. “He treated everyone well,” he said, “workers as well as customers. I looked forward to my days working with him.”
One of the things Ripley said he admired about Royall was his genuine interest in his employees.
Couch said Royall was a vital part of downtown Elkin for many years. “Everybody will remember him for chewing on his cigar,” he said. “He never had it lit.”
While he had a very outgoing, high-spirited personality, Couch said, “I think he was the type person that would have done anything to help somebody as far as the health care and pharmacy business was concerned.”
Couch said Royall once paid a local struggling pharmacist’s employees when he wasn’t able to cover the payroll. “He also extended credit and helped a lot of people who probably never paid him back,” he said.
Marty Triplett said she worked for Royall at his drugstore for years. “He was a really good boss,” she said, “and always treated me good. He observed everything and always knew what was going on.”
Every year at Christmas, she said the Royalls would rent a local American Legion building for their employees’ party. “His wife, Jean, would do all the cooking,” Triplett said. “Boy, I remember that good food she cooked.”
Triplett said the Royalls treated their employees well, giving them a generous Christmas bonus and a 20-percent discount on anything in the store.
Since Royall retired, Triplett said the building has had several different owners and is presently a soda shop. She still works there about two hours a day.
Kathy Chaffin can be reached at 336-258-4058.