Arts Patron Ruth Eckerd Dies at 84

Ruth Eckerd

She was the wife of drug store magnate Jack Eckerd, but Ruth Eckerd was much more. The couple supported numerous children's causes and founded a string of wilderness camps for troubled youngsters.

The Eckerds started the National Foundation for Youth and Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives, which now offers 39 programs in seven states.

The Eckerds also were among the five founding couples of an annual benefit that raises money for the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens.

Jack and Ruth Eckerd started the Eckerd Drug Corp. in Pinellas County in the mid-1950s and expanded it into one of the largest chains of its type in the country. As the company expanded, so did the Eckerds' role in the community. They helped rescue what was renamed Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and continued with many charitable causes before they sold the drugstore chain. And the performing arts center Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater is named after Mrs. Eckerd. Her husband died two years ago.

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