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Sherm's example

Local business owners have long made it a point to contribute to the communities that support them, their families and their employees. Few, however, gave as generously or as selflessly as Sherm and Wanda Olsrud.

Sherm, the founder and longtime president of Sherm’s Thunderbird and Food 4 Less markets, died Tuesday at 95. His wife, Wanda, survives him.

Sherm and Wanda built a regional chain of grocery stores in Medford, Klamath Falls and Roseburg starting in 1967, and they gave back to the community they made their home.

It’s hard to find a public project in the Rogue Valley untouched by the Olsruds’ generosity: Olsrud Arena at the Jackson County Expo, the Olsrud Community Playground at Bear Creek Park, Olsrud Court at Kids Unlimited.

Beyond physical structures, the couple’s philanthropy endowed scholarships through Southern Oregon University, the local FFA organization and the Oregon Community Foundation. They gave truckloads of food to ACCESS over the years, and Sherm paid for a security fence around McLoughlin Middle School.

Although many community projects bear the Olsrud name, their giving was never done for recognition; in fact, they were famously reticent about it.

The important thing was that they saw needs, and quietly fulfilled them. Often, the focus was on children, and especially projects that fostered sports and physical activity. They were fixtures at Kids Unlimited basketball tournaments.

Many business owners support local civic projects. Sherm Olsrud was only one of them. But he set a towering example for his fellow business operators to emulate. He will be missed.