Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a University of Wisconsin graduate named Wallace Jerome, according to a press release sent Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, from the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.
“Wallace Jerome helped make turkey a part of the holiday tradition,” Tod Pritchard, association spokesman, said. “As you carve the turkey this Thanksgiving, you can thank a University of Wisconsin alum. Mr. Jerome helped make that tradition possible.”
According to his obituary, printed in the News-Shield in 2006, Jerome was a Spooner native who passed away, at the age of 97, on June 21, 2006, at what was then known as Barron Riverside Manor.
“Jerome loved to watch turkey eggs hatch,” Pritchard said in the UW-Foundation release. “Between his 14th birthday and the time he completed high school in 1928, he had hatched a flock of 200 birds.”
After completing the University of Wisconsin’s Farm & Industry Short Course, “he became an egg inspector for the state’s Department of Agriculture,” Pritchard said.
“He returned to college in the late 1930s and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in poultry husbandry in 1941.”
That same year, Jerome bought what had been the Barron County “Poor Farm,” where he moved the turkey business.
According to the News-Shield Sesquicentennial Book, Jerome purchased an abandoned Barron pea cannery (the former J.B. Inderreiden Canning Company) in 1950, after the three-story “home farm” barn could no longer accommodate company operations.
Jerome turned the cannery into a processing plant for turkey meat. Jennie-O Turkey Store, the descendant of that operation, stands on the same site today.
“After improving turkey-farming systems to handle large numbers of birds, Jerome Foods … later became the Turkey Store and (in 2001) merged with Hormel Foods to become today’s Jennie-O Turkey Store,” Pritchard said.
“Jerome, (who retired in 1980) not only put Thanksgiving turkeys on the table across the country, but he also created innovations such as GobbleStix, steaks, tenderloins, sausages, burgers, and ham -- all made of turkey,” Pritchard said.
Capsule biographies of Jerome and other notable UW-Madison alumni can be found at www.allwaysforward.org/wi/.