Correction to This Article
In the Aug. 27 obituary of John A. Manfuso Jr., the name of one of his sisters was misspelled. She is Zelma Morrison of Chevy Chase.

John A. Manfuso Jr.; Co-Owned Racetracks

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 27, 2006

John A. "Tommy" Manfuso Jr., 76, former owner of Pimlico, Bowie and Laurel horse-racing parks and a partner in a pharmaceutical company, died of coronary artery disease Aug. 19 at his Chevy Chase home.

Mr. Manfuso, with his brother, Robert Manfuso, and Frank DeFrancis, owned and operated the Laurel and Pimlico parks from 1985 to 1990. He was also part owner of Four Brothers Stable, a breeding and racing partnership that bred several champion racehorses, including Shelter Half, a multiple stakes winner.

The Manfuso-DeFrancis partnership, which dissolved in acrimony after DeFrancis died in 1989, was considered one of racing's most daring, imaginative and profitable management teams. Mr. Manfuso was responsible for the parks' grounds and buildings, which were upgraded under his oversight.

Mr. Manfuso's father, John Manfuso Sr., had bred and raced horses since the 1930s, and his namesake tagged along to morning workouts as a boy. He wasn't allowed to go to the afternoon races until he was older, but by then the native Washingtonian, who graduated from Landon School, had turned toward team sports.

An all-New England tackle at Bowdoin College in Maine, Mr. Mancuso was still an undergraduate when he joined his father in buying pharmaceutical company Burton-Parsons & Co. After two years in the Army at Fort Lee during the Korean War, Mr. Mancuso spent most of his career at the firm, which developed the first cold disinfection system for soft contact lenses.

How the privately owned firm made its money became controversial when the FBI and Congress began investigating two Food and Drug Administration officials in the early 1980s.

Burton-Parsons & Co. spent $9,000 between 1974 and 1979 wining and dining microbiologist Mary Bruch and ophthalmologist Arnauld Scafidi all over the country. Bruch was repeatedly entertained at several racetracks. In 1978, Bruch caused the FDA to ban inexpensive salt tablets used by soft lens wearers to mix a homemade purifying solution.

The ban was later reversed, but for years, lens wearers and makers were forced to turn to a costlier sterilized saline solution on which Burton-Parsons & Co. at first had a virtual monopoly. The company's business boomed. In 1974, it had annual sales of about $5 million. In 1979, it was sold to a subsidiary of Nestlé S.A. for a reported $110 million.

At a 1981 hearing before the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Mr. Manfuso denied any impropriety. "Neither my brother nor I ever sought any action from FDA on any basis other than the merits of our products," he testified. Neither the firm nor the Manfusos were charged after the investigation. Scafidi resigned, and Bruch was fired.

Described in a 1989 Washington Post article as taller, broader and darker in complexion than his brother, Mr. Manfuso "scarcely moves his lips when he speaks in a raspy baritone, and he wears conservative business suits and eyeglasses that get darker in the sunlight."

He retired when the pharmaceutical firm was sold and moved to Florida. He returned to the Washington area to buy the Laurel race course and split his time between Chevy Chase and Florida. He also was a past commissioner for the town of Manalapan, Fla.

Mr. Mancuso, a golfer, was a member of Columbia Country Club, Burning Tree Club and Pine Tree Club.

A son, Thomas Allen Manfuso, died in 1984.

In addition to his brother, of West Friendship, survivors include his wife of 52 years, Yardley Minnix Manfuso of Chevy Chase and Florida; three children, Susan Faries of Potomac, Barbara Yardley Appleby of Chevy Chase and Jamie Manfuso of Olney; four sisters, Betty Jo Miller of Colorado Springs, Colo., Delma Morrison of Chevy Chase, Claudia Knudsen of Bethesda and Ann Paras of San Francisco; and eight grandchildren.

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