Jan S. Ostrom: 1945-2021

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Jan Ostrom passed away on November 1, 2021. The world has lost a remarkable woman.

There’s a line from a Mary Oliver poem that beautifully reflects Jan’s approach to life, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world,” and Jan certainly did not!

It would be impossible to know just how many lives Jan touched, impacted, and changed during the course of her lifetime. Her multiple careers, each reflecting her wonderfully varied interests and skills, spanned decades. Jan’s first profession was as a social worker in Los Angeles where she once found herself comforting incarcerated teenage girls during lockdown as the 1965 Watts riots raged. She was sensitive enough to know they “just needed someone to listen to them.”

Later, she followed her passion and earned her MFA in Film and Television Production from UCLA. This led to her second career teaching at the university level, as well as a satisfying run with NBC Television in Los Angeles. Appreciated for her abilities, work ethic, and interpersonal skills, Jan was a respected member of television production for many years.

Content with her life, Jan was happily surprised when she met and fell deeply in love with Alexandra Wineland. They eventually moved to Eureka, CA and Jan began yet another chapter in her rich life. Possessing a wide range of skills, Jan worked for the Humboldt County Department of Public Health, and later, directed the College of the Redwoods Diversity Program.

Jan often remarked how Alex changed her life “in the best possible way.” When they were finally able to legally marry in 2008, Jan was quoted as saying the two had been together “exactly 22 and a half years, three beautiful, beautiful, beautiful daughters, seven wonderful grandchildren and a stunning great grandchild!”

A strong team, these two exceptional women created a wonderful life together, one that included traveling, returning repeatedly to their beloved Hawaii.

In retirement, Jan was a valued volunteer at the Humboldt Botanical Gardens, using her many media skills to promote the gardens she so treasured. She also returned to her television roots and happily produced two programs for PBS KEET. The staffs at both organizations thought highly of her, appreciating her many contributions and good nature!

And, in a decision that was quintessential Jan, she made her theatrical debut at 72 in the Humboldt Light Opera Company’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” She was a munchkin who lit up the stage!

Jan had that wonderful ability to truly connect with people. She was a gifted organizer who could size up a problem and find a solution in short order. A talented storyteller and writer, she had been compiling family stories to include in an entertaining collection for her family. (Her childhood in rural Alaska was fascinating … and hysterical!) Later in life, Jan’s articles would regularly appear in The Senior News and The L-Word.

Jan’s real legacy in all of these endeavors was how highly respected and regarded she was. People just fell in love with her! Most of all, Jan was kind. She was so aware of others and their circumstances, so quick to offer her time, skills, and empathy. Family members and those fortunate to have had the honor of her friendship, will forever miss her compassion, generosity, wit, and beautiful heart.


At Jan’s request there will be no service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Humboldt Botanical Gardens.

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