From the time Erik Bolinder was a child and through his teenage years, he would push shopping carts up and down the aisles of an Albertsons grocery store. His father, Robert Bolinder, would buy the groceries and load them in the car. Father and son would deliver the bags to widows and people who couldn’t leave their homes.
“There are so many things he had done, that he did so quietly,” Erik Bolinder said.
Robert “Bob” Bolinder, who was CEO of Albertsons Inc. in the mid-1970s under founder and then-Chairman Joe Albertson, died Thursday at home in Boise with his family, including his wife, Sharon. He was 85.
His death was “bittersweet,” said Erik Bolinder. His eight children, three stepchildren, 44 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren will miss him, but they know he lived a full life. And he contributed greatly to the local business community.
“He was a real gentleman,” said Bob Miller, the current chairman and CEO of Albertsons Cos. “He cared about people. He treated them really well.”
Miller credits Bolinder with helping to drive the Albertsons company’s growth. After his stint as CEO, Bolinder served as chief financial officer, retiring in 1984.
“He was really the backbone of the company” then, Miller said.
Bob Bolinder was born in California and enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was stationed in Germany, where he met his first wife, Trudi Sophie Beer.
The couple returned to the U.S., where he studied accounting at Brigham Young University, then worked as an accountant for Deloitte Touche in California. There, he earned an MBA from University of California Berkeley, and the couple added more children to the family.
The Bolinders moved to Boise in 1965, where Bob worked in various positions for Albertsons. He became president of the fast-growing company in 1972 and CEO in 1974.
In retirement, he launched a grocery-industry consulting firm with his son-in-law, Bob Walker. He also served on corporate boards and presided over the Western Association of Food Chains.
Four years after leaving Albertsons, Bolinder became chief financial officer of another grocery chain well-known in Idaho — Smith’s Food and Drug Centers — and helped expand it, taking it public on the New York Stock Exchange. He retired from Smith’s in 1996. (That retirement took.)
His first wife, Trudi Sophie Beer, died in 1997 in a plane crash in McCall after 42 years of marriage.
Bolinder held leadership and board seats at several local organizations, such as the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Bogus Basin Ski Association. He was appointed by Gov. Butch Otter to the Idaho Human Rights Commission, where he served until 2012.
He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was active in the church, serving in several volunteer leadership positions.
Erik Bolinder said he remembers walking down the street with his father, and Bob Bolinder said hello to everyone they passed.
“We thought, ‘Wow, dad knows everybody,’” he said. Years later, they realized he had just been greeting strangers as though they were friends.
He was the same way in the business arena, Erik Bolinder said. He worked behind the scenes to help Albertsons grow and build new stores, and he was involved in the partnership with Skaggs that led to the creation of the modern-day supermarket, combining a grocery store and drugstore.
“I keep hearing from people from his past, saying he was a major influence on [their] career,” as a mentor or boss or coworker, he said. “The principled, ethical way that he did business was, I think an inspiration to a lot of people.”
A funeral open to the public will be held in Boise at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3229 Bogus Basin Road.