John N. Osterud, founder of the Osterud-Winter Trust Fund.
John N. Osterud, founder of the Osterud-Winter Trust Fund.
The "committee in charge" will soon be awarding scholarships from the Osterud-Winter Trust Fund to worthy graduates. Do you suppose students have a clue as to the how and why that trust fund was established? How about a little review.

John Osterud's parents had come from Norway in 1901, bringing their four children, John being only 2 years old. After John's father died in 1903, his mother moved to North Dakota to homestead a quarter section, and being far from civilization, she hired a tutor for John. He first attended school at age 11 when a school district was set up nearby. After five years of really tough times, Mrs. Osterud moved to Spring Valley where she sought jobs as a cleaning lady at 10 cents an hour. John worked at splitting wood, hoeing gardens and milking cows. As a teen he found work in Rochester at the Colonial Hotel/Hospital where he earned good tips, so good he planned to neglect his school work. His mother made a trip to Rochester via train and insisted he continue his education, so he came back to Spring Valley, worked very hard to "catch up" his studies, played basketball, and graduated in 1919.

John took various jobs at the Farmers Store, the post office, shoveled snow, swept sidewalks, and mopped floors. He found work at the Farmers State Bank, decided he liked banking, and soon became assistant cashier. When the bank failed in the Crash of '29, he worked with his brother, Harold, who was selling the new Star & Durant autos, and financing them. This led to John establishing the W & O Finance Co. with his good friend, Harry Washburn. The next company was Security Finance Corp. formed in the old bank building, and soon he was operating loan companies in six area towns. The Osterud Agency, Inc. was formed to handle insurance, and he became agent for Guarantee Mutual Life of Omaha for life insurance. John married Helen Howe, who was his "business partner," and they had one daughter, Karen. In 1933 John and several friends founded Home Federal Savings & Loan Association which today is known as Home Federal Bank, celebrating 80 years with many offices around the area. Associates at that time were E.C. "Bud" Duncanson, Joseph Mlinar, Max Brehmer and others.

John firmly believed in education as a look at his career will testify. He continued throughout his early life with correspondence courses, home study, graduating from Wharton College in Pennsylvania with a Master of Science degree. He earned his Bachelor of Law degree and in 1940 was admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. He felt a great sense of accomplishment, proving it could be done via correspondence and home study. Osterud and his family traveled around the world, maintained a winter home in Florida and a summer cottage near Barnum, Minn., where countless friends enjoyed splendid fishing experiences.

My first real contact was when, after graduation, I applied for a job as secretary at the Osterud Agency. John knew my folks as well as my grandparents (he probably knew everyone in town) and it was a true learning experience. I worked in the life insurance department with Gretchen Peterson, where Loren "Duby" Frankson was manager. Life insurance agents who were in and out of the office included Arnold Nelson, Gordon Dathe, Grand Meadow agents Ralph Kuhn and Bill Biederbick, and several others. In the office, our bosses were John Osterud and Bud Duncanson. Staff included Irma Buss, Arnelda Fitzthum, Gloria Roberts and Gertie Swenson. Keith Hagen was loan manager; Harold Morem was in the general insurance department and Les Knudsen sold insurance, too.

In later years, Osterud's wife died, but he still maintained homes in Florida, Spring Valley and Barnum. However, at the last he took an apartment at Madonna Towers in Rochester. He began to give serious consideration to his legacy, and established what became known as the Osterud-Winter Trust. The benefit to our community is inestimable. The million dollar trust is invested, and half the interest is awarded to scholarships; one-fourth is divided among the cemetery funds, the nursing home, and the historical society, the library, (once the hospital was included), plus one-fourth is allocated for emergency needs in the surrounding area. By 2006, over $690,000 had blessed the students and non-profits, and one can only guess at the total figure today. Osterud's daughter, Karen, died in 1993 and he never recovered from the loss. True to his business-like efficiency, he died just before midnight on Dec. 31, 1993.

Osterud's incredibly generous gift to our community is an inspiration to those who can do likewise. Gifts to the Spring Valley Foundation are one way to show appreciation for the privilege of living in this fine small town, Spring Valley.