Jerry O'Shea, the youngest of three boys, grew up in a flat on Army Street in San Francisco's Mission District. Upon graduating from high school in 1939, Jerry joined Levi Strauss & Co. His first job was as a stock boy, taking inventory of the company's products at its 98 Battery Street headquarters.
In 1941, Jerry interrupted his LS&Co. service to go overseas and fight for the Allies in World War II. He returned to San Francisco in 1945, married his high school sweetheart, Claire, and resumed a career that spanned his entire working life.
Jerry worked the western territories as a salesman and eventually ascended the executive ranks to become Vice President of Corporate Marketing. He retired in 1981, after 42 years with the company.
As his tenure at Levi Strauss & Co. concluded, Jerry was mindful of the thousands of manufacturing employees who had also devoted their careers to LS&Co. He understood that if an emergency came up, many had no financial cushion. These men and women had made it possible for Jerry to succeed and, ultimately, to give something back.
Inspired by the company’s history of philanthropy — dating back to Levi Strauss himself — Jerry and his wife Claire invested $100,000 of their own money to establish the Red Tab Foundation. Other executives made contributions to support the "safety net" that Jerry created for their fellow employees. They agreed that a fund started by employees, for employees, was not only a logical extension of the values inherent to Levi Strauss & Co., but also an essential contribution to the community.
Jerry and Claire ran the foundation until his health failed. By spending the last years of his life focused on the Red Tab Foundation, Jerry O'Shea ensured a unique legacy of employee-to-employee giving. He was a man who refused to forget his modest beginnings, and he ended up making a difference for thousands at Levi Strauss & Co. His legacy continued when, in 1990, the Haas family and other company shareholders endowed the organization to carry on the O'Sheas' work.
“Without the help and referrals from the Red Tab Foundation, I never would have been able to afford heat for the winter.” Retiree Recipient