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Helen Ostby
Aug. 7, 1931-Oct. 21, 2013
Palo Alto, California

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Our beloved, gracious and irrepressible mother, Helen (Wear) Ostby passed away peacefully at her home in California due to pancreatic cancer on Oct. 21, 2013. She was born in Madison, on Aug. 7, 1931, to Annie Laurie Mewhinney Wear and Dr. John Brewster Wear. On Sept. 8, 1951, she married Byron C. Ostby in Madison.

Helen is survived by her three children, Helen Signe Ostby who lives in Woodside, Calif., and is married to Scott D. Cook (grandchildren, David Bryn Cook, Karl Anders Cook, and Annie Laurie Cook), David Joel Ostby who lives in Madison, and is married to Tera Schoor Ostby (grandchild, Bryn Johannes Ostby), and Laurie Ostby Kehler who lives in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and is married to Thomas P. Kehler (grandchild, John Thomas Kehler). She is also survived by her sister, Constance Wear Blowers, who lives in Temple, Texas. She was preceded in death by her brother, Dr. John B. Wear Jr.

She attended UW-Madison from 1949-1951, where she was a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority. While attending the UW, she was elected to be a Badger Beauty. She also performed as a synchronized swimmer. Her future husband, Byron, first spied her teaching the Charleston at the Delta Gamma house.

Helen, like her mother, loved gardening. She was involved with the Maple Bluff Garden Club as a show judge and beautifying the triangle medians around the Bluff. In 1966, Helen spearheaded the Maple Bluff Garden Club project of turning a portion of the Governor's mansion gardens into a fragrant herb garden for the blind. She spent hours researching what plants and what type of metal markers to use for the braille signs. The "touch and smell" garden was a huge success!

In the 1970s, she started a needlepoint store in her home called "The Needle and Eye" where she designed, painted and sold needlepoint canvasses, yarn, and taught countless people, young and old, how to needlepoint.

Her artistic flare took shape in all forms of creativity. Besides needlepoint, she was a multiple award winning flower arranger, watercolorist, knitter and basket weaver.

Helen was always thinking about those less fortunate. Just days before she passed, she was praying for suffering people she heard about on the nightly news. Some of her many volunteer activities include: teaching the blind how to swim, and being a member and former chairwoman of Maple Bluff Garden Club. She volunteered with First Call for Help in Dane County, Wis. As a member of the Bethel Lutheran Church Circle, she undertook the formidable task of designing and organizing the needlepoint kneelers for Bethel Lutheran Church - twice! (Because a warehouse fire ruined the first set).

Even as she aged into her 70's and 80's she was influencing people's lives. She served as a trustee for the Maple Bluff Village from 1996 to 2000. Hans Johnson, former Village president recalls, "She saw the importance of upgrading and expanding the old Village hall and saw how integral it was to injecting new life and 'glue' to the community. Despite the obstacles of enormous remodeling costs and some opposition, she was instrumental in transforming the Village Hall into the current vibrant Village Center."

Johnson continues, "While Helen's efforts and enthusiasm in developing the Village Center was indicative of her boundless energy, she was often quietly involved with many other Village projects such as the Gazebo, the Garden Club, and many of the activities associated with the Village Parks and Recreation Committee. While Helen has passed, her actions on behalf of the Village will live on forever."

As a lifelong resident of Maple Bluff, the gazebo on the grounds of the old Lakewood school was a pet project of hers. She had attended there as a child and so had all her children. In fact, she still got together with her beloved childhood friends, the "Lakewood Girls" for reunions. The gazebo was built partly with bricks from the old Georgian style, red brick school that was torn down.

As she began to spend more time in California, she humbly started a Bible study at her senior living center, the Vi in Palo Alto. "Who am I to do this? And what if nobody comes?" she said when pondering this decision. But she needn't have worried, it was and is now a successful, thriving get together.

Helen had a zest for life that sparkled wherever she was. When asked what she was wearing to her 80th birthday party she responded slyly, "Spandex!" On her special day, her famous legs were indeed swathed in spandex with a flowing caftan on top.

Despite many physical hardships (ankle fusion, back fusion, osteoarthritis and breast cancer survivor) she was an inspiration to her family as she had to let go of tennis, golf, swimming and cross-country skiing without complaint. She just moved onto the next activity she could do! Swimming and water aerobics stayed with her to the end.

She loved her Badgers and Packers football teams, but most of all she loved Jesus Christ. She was so grateful for all her blessings and always tried to focus on them instead of the setbacks many elderly endure. Her generous heart, kind example and zest for life will be deeply missed by all who were blessed to know her! The Bible verses that meant a lot to her in the end are: Romans 8:37-39, I Corinthians 15:51-57, John 14:1-4 and the 23rd Psalm.

A memorial service in Palo Alto will be held Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, at the Vi Senior Living Center on Sand Hill Road, from 3 to 5 p.m. Service in Madison will be held sometime in the spring and notices will run in the newspaper one month prior.

Donations in Helen's name can be directed to: Bethel Lutheran Church Food Pantry, Olbrich Gardens and First Call for Help - all in Madison.

Tags: arts/media, teacher/educator

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Memorial service
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 at the Vi in Palo Alto. 620 Sandhill Road, 3-5 p.m.

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