About The Wilstermans
John F “Jack” Wilsterman and Edith L. Wilsterman were born and raised in Saginaw County, Michigan. Shortly after their marriage in 1940 they found themselves parted for a time as Jack served his country overseas during World War II. Back home Edith also aided in the war effort, working in a war related equipment factory.
With Jack back home from the war after completing his military service, he and Edith decided to move to the West side of Michigan where Jack took up work at Sears Roebuck and Company. However, with their entrepreneurial hearts, Jack and Edith eventually found themselves the owners of a cinema in Cedar Springs, Michigan, with Jack taking up the duties in the projectionist’s booth, and Edith serving up homemade popcorn topped with locally churned butter.
After several successful years in the theatre business a new opportunity was to beckon. While on a business trip through East Lansing in the late 1950’s, Jack passed a new type of restaurant just opening which appeared to serve take out only to passersby. Jack was initially skeptical of the idea but following the same route days later he was impressed with the size of the crowds it was drawing. This would turn out to be no ordinary restaurant, but one of the first locations of what would grow to be the largest restaurant chain in America: McDonald’s.
Soon after, the Wilstermans would board a train and travel to the Chicago area to speak personally with the man responsible for these newfangled franchised eateries, Ray Kroc. Each party obviously made a good impression on the other as the Wilstermans were offered and accepted a new franchise area in Flint, Michigan at their initial meeting.
The first McDonald’s restaurant in the Flint area was a roaring success and the Wilstermans soon expanded, eventually operating several McDonald’s locations with their business partner.
Although the Wilstermans were never blessed with children of their own, the great Flint area kids who often found their first jobs at McDonald’s were a key part of their success story. Quietly generous throughout their lives, Jack and Edith supported many charitable causes and eventually began to consider what they could do to help “their kids” in a lasting way beyond employment.
They determined to create a scholarship program for kids in Genesee County, Michigan which would have a long and lasting impact, helping our local young people realize their dreams of education beyond high school.
The John F. and Edith L. Wilsterman Scholarships are the culmination of a long commitment which was to be fully realized only after Jack and Edith had passed. Begun in a small way in the later years of Edith’s life, the Wilstermans saw to it that their dream would continue on for many years, leaving the majority of their considerable estate to the foundation.
Our community has been wonderfully blessed by the generosity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and vision of Jack and Edith Wilsterman which will benefit “their kids” for decades to come.
Photos: Top: Jack & Edith Wilsterman at the ribbon cutting for Ronald McDonald House; Middle: Jack & Edith's wedding; Bottom: Jack in action at an early Flint McDonald's