MEDFORD, Ore. – Born in 1924 to a poor rural family in Maddock, North Dakota, Sherm Olsrud was the son of a blacksmith.
After serving in the South Pacific as a marine during World War II, Sherm moved west to work at his uncle’s restaurant in Eugene. It was there that he met the love of his life, Wanda.
The couple married one year later in February 1947.
Using money he received from the GI Bill, Sherm learned meat cutting and bought his first business, Sherm’s Meat Market, for $500.
The Eugene store expanded and eventually became Sherm’s 24-hour market, a rarity at the time. But thanks to Sherm and Wanda’s tireless efforts, it was a success.
The Olsruds later sold the Eugene store and, in 1967, bought what would become Thunderbird Market in Medford.
Traveling south with Wanda and their young sons, Steve and Rod, Sherm began a long, fruitful career in the Rogue Valley.
“The community has been good to us,” Sherm said of his family’s time in southern Oregon. And in turn, they were good to the community. Though they wouldn’t tell you about it, the Olsruds helped support a number of local organizations.
Years ago, when Sherm’s Thunderbird store received a share of the proceeds for selling a winning Powerball ticket, Sherm donated the funds to a pair of elementary schools.
Sherm once said, “There is so much need out there today that we’re just fortunate and that we can give back to the community.”
In 2001, Sherm and Wanda were awarded the Chamber of Medford-Jackson County “First Citizen Award.”
And in 2009 when Sherm’s Thunderbird received an Excellence in Business Award from The Chamber, NBC5 News asked him what he wanted to say to his customers. “Oh gosh… see you tomorrow!” he chuckled.
That fun-loving spirit led Sherm to support countless children’s programs as he succinctly pointed out, “Kids are our future.”
And thanks to his incredible life and tireless generosity, the future is bright.
There are Sherm’s Thunderbird Markets in Medford, Klamath Falls and Roseburg. The company also owns Food 4 Less in Medford and employs over 600 people.
Sherm was 95 years old when he passed away.