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A CELEBRATION OF LIFE
IN MEMORY OF
JANETTE L. OSTENDORF
Jan (Mom) was born to Chris and Cora Swygman on September 15, 1927 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester MN. About 2-1/2 years later, mom became a big sister to her brother Eugene. My brothers and I have jointly worked on this time capsule of our mom. We hope you enjoy it, get a few laughs, and learn about the wonderful woman our mother was – the Matriarch of our family.
Mom grew up in Rochester, attended school there and had many friends. While we are not sure about the place(s) she lived with grandma and grandpa, the place we remember most is the house that resided at 937 – 7th Ave. S.E. Grandpa worked for many years at the Kahler Hotel starting as a busboy working his way up to Head Chef. Mom would always say how good grandpa was at cooking and how she really liked it when he brought something home for them. Mom said, too, that they were very lucky during the depression times when food was not very plentiful. She said they actually had real butter to use and that was something to behold during those times.
Mom did her schooling at the elementary school close to their house, then moving on to junior high and then to Rochester High School (we believe that is what now John Marshall is). Mom was a drum majorette for her school. She really looked pretty classy in her outfit! She had many friends with whom she hung out. Mary Lou and Roxie are a couple of the names we recall. They were all your typical teenagers. Mom would tell us that when she was out on a date and home in the driveway, if grandma thought she was out there smooching too long, she would flip the light switch on and off many times. (Gosh mom, you did that to your daughter too!) One time, she found that didn’t work and grandma marched out in her robe and jammies and grabbed mom by the earlobe and brought her in the house. Talk about embarrassing!
After graduation, mom decided to make the move to the Twin Cities and we believe she lived with her aunt and uncle, Allie and Wardie Schinke. Mom got a job working for Northwest Orient Airlines in an office job at Holman Field in St. Paul, MN.
Mom loved to dance and she and her friends went to the Prom Ballroom, the Marigold Ballroom and others. As the story goes, one day, mom and a friend of hers were out and about. Now, we can’t say for sure if the following took place in downtown Minneapolis at a bar or café. In late spring, early summer in 1946, Ted (Dad) Ostendorf was out with friend Tony Mastrian when his eyes took notice of mom. Well, after a bit of time mom and dad started dating. In August of 1946, August 31 I believe mom told me, dad proposed, she accepted and December 7, 1946, the two of them joined in marriage. They both were 19 at the time. Very young by today’s standards but normal for that time.
They, I would say, were fast workers in starting the family department. In March 1947, mom found out she was pregnant with their first child. Their daughter, Linda, was born in September 1947. Years went on and mom was busy raising a rather head strong daughter. In early 1951, mom found out she was pregnant again. At this time, dad was working but also in the Reserves (he was separated from the Navy in 1945 or 1946). Well, mom is pregnant, dealing with an active 3-1/2 year old and learning dad has been called back into service. Mom wrote a note to Mayor Hubert Humphrey stating this wasn’t going to work. Don’t know if the letter had anything to do with it, but dad got a letter from the Navy stating his report orders were rescinded and he wasn’t getting called back. Phew for mom! Mom was to be at her brother’s wedding in September 1951, but instead missed the wedding and gave birth to her first son, Bob 4 days prior to the wedding. Now mom loved being a mom and wife. She was at home with the kids while dad worked. Bob was the easy going child and very easy to raise.
Time was going by – our family moved quite a bit within the Twin Cities during building houses, living in them, selling them only to do it again and again. Mom found a little part time job with an appliance company – Midland Cooperative. She was the model for Midland Co-op’s new advertisement for the upcoming food freezers they were going to be selling. She really looked cute in the ad! Lil’ Mrs. Homemaker!
Mom and dad had so many friends. Back in the day, house parties were the big thing. Mom would be busy cooking, on a given Friday or Saturday evening preparing for friends to come over and they danced the night away in the basement of our home(s). The ladies were dressed up and the guys as well. Dancing, laughter, food and conversation were the events of the evening. If it wasn’t a night of dancing, mom and dad were playing cards for the evening. If it wasn’t either of those, they were helping friends and family with home projects.
Summer of 1959 came around and we moved to Salem, OR. Now the talk was we were on our way to Phoenix, AZ via the northern route. What a family vacation that was!! We sold everything we could and took only what would fit in the trunk of our 1958 Chevy Biscayne or on the car top carrier. Dad found a job; they rented an apartment for a bit and bought a home. Mom worked in the government building in Salem doing office work. But mom loved being a stay at home mom and wife and decided to see what there was part time. She got a job working for Mike Porter’s Excavation Company just a few blocks up from our house. She did that for a couple of years.
Mom made many friends there and we vacationed at the cabin of some friends up Santiam River in the Cascade Mountains or Newport/Depoe Bay on the coast. A kid’s dream come true!! We made many trips to and from MN to see family and friends every year. However, 1962 became an eventful year. Mom found out, at age 35, she was pregnant. Oh boy! That year too our paternal grandfather passed away. In February of 1963, mom gave birth to her second son, Darren who, as big sister can share, turned out to be a little hell raiser too! Mom had it so good with Bob! But a few months after Darren was born, we had to leave Salem and officially move back to MN. Needless to say, that broke all of our hearts, but dad said it was his duty to come home and care for his mom and siblings. None of us wanted to come back.
The years waned on and mom and dad were with friends again, established in a home again, Mom worked again this time at Montgomery Wards in Apache Plaza. She was there for many years. Then her friend, Frannie Mastrian, told her about Hypro Corporation in New Brighton. Mom left Wards and went to work in the office at Hypro and that is where she retired from when she was 63-1/2.
Yes, there was a sad time during the above years. Unfortunately, the very ugly disease of alcoholism came into our family. There were more rough times than I believe my brothers and I want to remember. Mom and dad divorced in 1978 if memory serves me right. Mom went into a depression over this loss and by God’s blessings, had Darren to keep her going. Finally, a good friend of mom’s said, Jan we are going out and that they did. From that point on, mom blossomed open again. She and her lady friends made road trips to TX for a month during early winter, went on a bus trip to Branson, MO, went dancing constantly, out with friends.
It was during this time, she met a man, who would be her dance partner and companion for 20+ years. To watch mom and Emil dance was like watching clouds drift by on a beautiful summer day. They graced the dance floor with charm, beauty and dignity. He had a pool at his house and a lot of mom’s friends came over there for pool parties and good food and fun. We kids were invited over to enjoy it as well. Emil passed away many years ago. Mom continued on with family, friends and work. However, unbeknownst to us kids, mom was also getting dementia. It all began to change in September of 2009. It was difficult to learn and see that happen to this beautiful and vibrant woman. We kids had to make the decision to have mom sell her condo and move into Assisted Living. She was not thrilled at all with this! But she settled in and her girlfriends still came over, played cards, went out, etc.
Then the curve ball came and it was time to move mom into Pearl Garden, which would be her home for the next 6+ years. Pearl Garden is a memory care unit that is part of the assisted living facility Chandler Place that mom started at.
It wasn’t easy for us kids to take mom’s license and car keys away. But she gave them up. We had a few rough days after that, but mom came to terms with it. She was depressed but as time went on, it gave way to her enjoying her new home, her new friends there and she actually started taking part in some activities again.
Before continuing on with the story, it is only appropriate and very necessary to say that our mom got the best, most excellent care at Chandler and Pearl Garden. The staff there, especially at Pearl, loved mom and it was very evident in how they treated her. She was made to feel like a queen. The staff at Pearl loves all their residents and is family. They helped us kids through this journey we were walking with mom. But you will read more as this story continues.
Mom loved going out for lunch. So at various times, us kids would take mom out to lunch, over to Chandler for lunch, bring something in. Her favorite saying was “Let’s go for lunch and I’ll buy.”
As time kept moving on, it got a bit more difficult to take mom out. We had her at our homes for holidays, but slowly it was better to bring the holidays to mom. Fast forwarding, mom fell last year and fractured her hip. This caused a spiral from which there was no return.
Mom didn’t like rehab, lost a lot of weight, and was learning she would be wheelchair bound. She wanted to go back to her Pearl Garden home. Now this is where the Pearl Garden staff really jumped in to hyper mode. They helped us kids in getting her back to her place. Kelley Deen was the nurse at Pearl. She fought hard, as did social workers, her Ramsey County social worker, Ying Xiong, to make sure she could go home again. Her Medicaid was amped up as more services were needed, Kelley and staff talked with the Director of Nursing on our behalf and then by the grace of God, mom was able to go home again last September 7. Talk about happy! However, this was also the beginning of the slippery slope down. In October of 2018, we were advised to bring hospice in. Now mom wasn’t near death, but hospice could add additional help and services for mom.
Now it is time to talk about Health Partners Hospice. These women were nothing shy of angels on earth! Anne, her nurse, Deb, music therapist, Lorna her social worker, and many others, worked with our family, walked with our family, kept us informed. More will come about these incredibly wonderful folks.
Mom declined rapidly over the past several months. Dementia was getting worse, she was confined to the wheelchair and she needed more assistance from the staff at Pearl. Good days, bad days. Then a few months ago, she started sleeping a bit more, appetite so-so at times, but she still loved her chocolate and black licorice. Lisa King, the life enrichment coordinator at Pearl, said when we see a slip in mom, it actually gave mom more reason to get out. Sounds crazy, but Lisa was spot on.
Mom didn’t play bingo. However, the Thursday before her passing, Lorna, her hospice social worker, came to see mom. Guess where mom was – playing bingo. Go figure! Well Lorna sat with mom. Lisa was calling numbers, mom wasn’t getting numbers and when all was said and done the game over, mom blurts out – not softly mind you – THIS IS THE SHITS! Everyone heard it. Lorna said they laughed and she softly said back to mom, YES, JAN, THIS IS THE SHITS! But mom did go on Friday to win a bingo game.
Now we come to Monday, April 1, 2019. Mom went into respiratory distress at around 2:30 am. We kids got the call around 7:30 am that we should come to Pearl. Mom we believe was conscious but not responsive. However, she did squeeze ones hand or move her eyes as if to let us know she heard us and was responding. But seeing this beautiful woman struggle to breath was a lot to take in for us kids and others family members and friends. The hospice staff and the staff at Pearl were beyond anything words can say to mom and our family. They made us feel as if we were the only people on the floor that day. Always checking in, making sure mom was comfortable, not in pain. The hours passed.
All those years ago, mom was with us giving us kids life…now we are with her as her life was about to end on earth. Talk about the circle of life. The tears flowed, the funny stories were told, the day waned on. We were coming upon the bewitching hour. We told mom it was okay for her to go be with God and dad and all her relatives. We told her we would be okay. We told her we loved her, we would miss her, but we wanted her to be at peace and whole again. Mom had family around her. At 7:44 pm, I was privileged and honored to hold her hand, see her take her last two breaths on earth and so beautifully and peacefully pass on to her new eternal life into the arms of her loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No struggles, no gasps for air, no stressful movements, just a beautiful, calm peaceful passing on. Then something so mysterious happened. Kyle, the nurse on duty, had just said mom passed. All of a sudden both of her hands and arms moved together and rested on her heart. No one helped her with this – it just happened. There are angels on earth and in spirit. I believe mom was telling us all is well, I am home, I love you and, mom being mom, I get the last word!
Well, there are probably pages and pages of more things that could be written about this amazing woman. This was a very capsulated story.
But us kids, and all who knew our mom, were blessed to have her be in our lives.
Mom, Bob, Darren and I were nothing shy of being blessed to have you for our mother, to raise us, to love us, to guide us, to help us and probably gave you a few gray hairs along the way. It was our privilege and honor to be called your children and to share in being with you as you enter your new eternal home. There is a void in our hearts now, but we know that we will all be reunited with you, dad and the family. The tears of those of sadness, comfort and healing. You will always be so missed by all of us who love you.
Now, mom, rest in peace, keep dancing as though no one is watching, keep dad in line.
Your most loving children,
Linda, Bob and Darren
PS I will always love you “gate gate gamma,” Alex