A Foundation for Success

Adversity was no match for Janet Desmond, co-founder of Tom Thumb Donuts. Their foundation aims to keep her spirit alive—and help Normandale students in the process.


John & Janet Desmond

Bob Everett, Foundation Exec. Dir. Colleen Simpson, Ernie Lindstrom

It's inspirational to witness the strength of the human spirit. It helps people fight through tough circumstances and achieve great things. Few people embodied that more than Janet Desmond.

Desmond created the John and Janet Desmond Foundation after her husband John passed away in 2003. In July 2013, Janet passed away. Their foundation, managed by family friends Bob Everett and Rod Beltz and the family's attorney, Ernie Lindstrom, is keeping the couple's memory alive by engaging in causes that help others overcome adverse situations.

To honor the Desmond's legacy, their foundation is annually donating 25 $1,000 scholarships to Normandale students who have successfully persevered through difficult life situations. These principles represent the life of Janet Desmond.

“No one ever gave John and Janet anything in life,” says Lindstrom. “They accomplished everything through hard work, dedication, and loyalty to the employees who worked for them. Throughout her life, Janet showed perseverance in many tough circumstances.

"Those attributes in students are something that Bob, Rod, and I thought would be the best way to represent their legacy.”

Overcoming adversity

Desmond grew up in Chicago and faced tough obstacles as a child. Her mom passed away when she was only two, and she was accidentally shot by a neighborhood boy when she was six. Many thought she would not survive, but she pulled through.

Her first husband, Chuck Hansen, owned a South Chicago donut shop. After he served in World War II, the couple moved to Minneapolis and started the Downey Dunker Donut Shop across from Minneapolis South High School. Business was slow during the summer months. Janet found a solution when she saw an ad in a baker's magazine for a Tom Thumb donut machine. The couple got a $2,000 loan for the equipment and opened Tom Thumb Donuts at the Minnesota State Fair in 1950. The new business was a hit. But tragedy struck in 1960, when Chuck was fatally injured in an accident at the Fair.

Janet continued to run the business. Two years later she married John Desmond, an engineer who helped with the machines, and together they continued to improve the donut-making process.

They also expanded their business with the help of Everett and Beltz. Tom Thumb Donuts has now become an institution, at the Minnesota State Fair and far beyond.

Lindstrom says that Janet was always looking to help others.

“Janet was a generous and tender person,” he notes.

“We still get thank you cards from people she touched. Our goal is to remember Janet and John now by doing good things—and to expound on the virtues of self-responsibility in spite of whatever has happened to you.”

Normandale is a great fit for the Desmond Foundation. Both Beltz and Everett (currently the president of Tom Thumb Donuts) attended Normandale. Lindstrom has witnessed Normandale's impact first-hand as a former Normandale Foundation Board member. The college is proud and honored to carry on the Desmonds' legacy.