MEDFORD, Ore. — After many years as a leader of the local community, Sherm Olsrud has died at the age of 95. Sources at Sherm's Markets confirmed that Olsrud passed away on Tuesday, surrounded by family.
After growing up in North Dakota, Sherm served as a Marine during WWII, fighting in the South Pacific. He later settled in Oregon, where he met his future wife Wanda. They married in 1947.
Beginning first in Eugene, Sherm and Wanda worked together to buy and operate a series of markets — eventually taking over the Thunderbird Market in Medford in 1967. The couple said later that they kept the Thunderbird name because they couldn't afford to replace the sign.
From there, the couple's business gradually expanded, acquiring several other store locations, including a Food 4 Less franchise on Biddle Road.
Both Sherm and Wanda were always active in the Southern Oregon community and became known for their charitable giving. Recently the revamped Bear Creek playground came to bear their name in honor of how much they had given back to the community over the years.
The Olsruds have made a tradition of delivering an extremely generous amount of food every year to ACCESS in order to supply the food-insecure, donating 23,000 pounds of food in December.
Almost immediately after news of his death broke, voices in the Southern Oregon community responded with condolences and memories of the man who made such an indelible impact.
"Our entire community will grieve the loss of this great man and also share in the joys of having him be such an important part of our community. Thank you for your amazing spirit, generosity and leadership! Blessings to your family and all your employees," said a statement from the United Way of Jackson County.
"Your commitment to children will be a lasting testament to all that follow. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Oslrud family and everyone that was touched by Sherm's smile and laughter," said the Rogue Valley Family YMCA.
"So hard to capture all this man has done for this community. Truly a Saint among us. He was so humble, so down to earth, so willing to help his fellow mankind and citizens of this community," said Tammi Pitzen with the Children's Advocacy Center of Jackson County. "I met him when I first came to this community almost six years ago and no matter where I saw him, he was the same smiling Sherm Oslrud ready to pitch in and make a difference any way he could . . . and make a difference he did! The Valley will never be the same."
The Children's Advocacy Center also released an official statement on Sherm's passing:
"He has supported those who are hungry in our community. He has supported children who have been abused. He has supported what seems like limitless the children in our community. When trying to thank him or recognize him for these generous acts of quiet philanthropy, he would generally deflect the gratitude to the community who gave so much support to his family. He would say that the children are our future. He would say that is part of being a good citizen . . . to give back to the community who gives so much to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Olsrud, his children and his grandchildren."
"We extend our support and sympathy for the family, coworkers, friends and everyone whose lives have been touched by this great man," ACCESS said in a statement on Thursday. "On behalf of the ACCESS board of directors, team and volunteers, we would not be able to do all we do without Sherm Olsrud."
We extend our support and sympathy for the family, coworkers, friends and everyone whose lives have been touched by this great man. On behalf of the ACCESS board of directors, team and volunteers, we would not be able to do all we do without Sherm Olsrud. pic.twitter.com/thdxLyG68M
— ACCESS (@AccessHelps) May 16, 2019
This is a developing story, and NewsWatch 12 will be updating this article with more details as they emerge. Sherm and Wanda's son Steve Olsrud released a brief statement on Wednesday afternoon that can be read below.