John Ostlund

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John Chapman Ostlund​

Wyoming State Senator for
Campbell and Johnson counties​
In office
1973​ – 1978​
Preceded by Richard A. Mader​
Succeeded by Catherine M. Parks​

Born September 29, 1927​
Gillette, Campbell County, Wyoming​
Died April 27, 2004 (aged 76)​
Cheyenne, Laramie County, Wyoming​
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Virginia Ryan Ostlund (married 1952-2004, his death)​
Children Peg Ostlund​

John Ostlund, Jr.
​ Nancy Ostlund Essery
​ Tom Ostlund
​ Karin Ostlund
​ Patrick Ostlund
​ Jane Ostlund Gebhart
​ Scott Ostlund​

Occupation Businessman
Religion Roman Catholic

(1) Ostlund came within 2,378 votes (1 percent) of winning the Wyoming gubernatorial general election of 1978. ​

(2) Ostlund's Wyoming State Senate] service focused primarily on mineral development and promoting economic progress in the nation's least populous state.

(3) Before he held public office, Ostlund spent more than a decade as a county chairman and a state committeeman within the Wyoming Republican Party.

(4) Diabetes caused Ostlund to lose his eyesight and rely on seeing-eye dogs for the last nineteen years of his life.​ ​

John Chapman Ostlund (September 29, 1927 – April 27, 2004) was a diversified businessman from Gillette and Cheyenne, Wyoming, who served in his state Senate from 1973 to 1978, when he resigned to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. As the GOP nominee, he came within 1 percentage point of unseating Democrat Governor Edgar Jacob Herschler (1918-1990) of Kemmerer in Lincoln County in western Wyoming.

Ostlund lost his sight in 1985 because of complications from diabetes. Thereafter, he became an advocate of the blind and penned his memoirs to benefit the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, New York.​


Ostlund was the second son born to Axel William Ostlund (1891–1982) and the former Mary Spence "Polly" Roberts (1902–1980) in Gillette in Campbell County in northeastern Wyoming.[1] In 1944, he graduated from Campbell County High School and then entered Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, which closed in 2002. He received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, from Republican U.S. Senator Frank A. Barrett of Wyoming. He graduated in 1949 with the commission of ensign and served on the destroyer, Meredith, in the Mediterranean Sea. The diagnosis of diabetes required him to retire from the Navy in 1950. During a stay at St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island, New York, he met the Navy nurse, Ensign Mary Virginia Ryan (born May 29, 1928). On January 13, 1952, the couple wed in Mount Vernon, New York. They settled in his native Gillette.​[2]

Ostlund and his brother, Axel Roberts "Bob" Ostlund (1925-2008), were involved in a multitude of business activities in Gillette:[3] John Deere Farm Machinery, plumbing and heating, sheet metal, banking, and the construction and op-2008)eration of motels and restaurants. Their interest also reached into manufacturing, real estate, investments, agri-business, and mineral leasing and exploration.[2]

Political and community service

Ostlund was chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party from 1961 to 1969. He then served for several years as a state Republican committeeman. In 1969, Republican Governor Stanley K. Hathaway named Ostlund to the board of trustees of the University of Wyoming at Laramie. During his term, UW developed its Fine Arts Center.[2]

In 1972, Ostlund unseated state Senator Richard A. Mader (1923–2001) of Gillette in the Republican primary to represent Campbell and neighboring Johnson County, which was the site of a notorious range war in the early 1890s. He won the general election in the fall and was reelected in 1976. The 1970s were a time when Wyoming and particularly Campbell County were experiencing growth in mineral development. Ostlund, a conservative Republican, was chairman of the Senate Mines, Minerals and Industrial Development Committee and was involved in the development of the Wyoming Community Development Authority, the Coal Tax for Impact Assistance, and the School Foundation Program to finance capital facilities. Ostlund listed his most important accomplishment as the acquisition of the land for the "Camplex," the multi-activities center for Campbell County.[2]

In the spring of 1978, Ostlund resigned from the state Senate to run for governor. In the primary, he polled 40,251 votes (58.9 percent) to defeat Gus Fleischli, a Rawlins native who was in the petroleum business in Cheyenne, who received 24,824 ballots (36.4 percent). In a mostly Democratic year nationally, Ostlund was then defeated in the general election by Herschler: 67,595 votes (49.1 percent) to 69,972 (50.9 percent). Four years earlier as the GOP nominee, trucking executive and former State Senator Dick Jones of Cody in Park County received 56,645 (44.1 percent) to Herschler's 71,741 votes (55.9 percent). Ostlund hence ran 10,950 votes ahead of Jones, but Jones had faced voters in a more heavily Democratic year nationally.[4]

From 1970 to 1995, the Ostlunds owned the historic Remount Ranch twenty-three miles west of Cheyenne. During the early years, the ranch was a weekend home, but it was a full-time residence for the last eleven years until it was sold.[5] The couple made extensive restorations to the property and hosted civic, educational, and social functions there. By 1985, Ostlund had gradually lost his sight but continued many community activities, including service on the board of the Wells Fargo Bank, the Cheyenne United Medical Center Foundation, the Governor’s Mansion Foundation and the acclaimed Old West Museum in Cheyenne. He was also a member of Cheyenne Rotary International and the Cheyenne Young Men’s Literary Club.[2]

In 1995, the Ostlunds relocated to Cheyenne and sold Remount to the Bangert family, which returned it to its previous status as a working ranch.[5]

Death and legacy

In 2001, Ostlund published his autobiography, Quite a Life, which he dedicated to his eight grandchildren.[6] All proceeds from the sale of the book were donated to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, the organization from which he obtained his two guide dogs. His most recent dog, Russ, died unexpectedly several weeks before Ostlund's own passing. Ostlund sometimes took his guide dogs into classrooms in elementary schools to demonstrate how he and the dogs worked as a team to assist him in maintaining his many activities. Despite his handicap, Ostlund maintained many private interests, including playing the piano.[2]

Ostlund died at his home in Cheyenne. In addition to his wife and brother, he was survived by his eight children: Peg Ostlund of Cheyenne, John Ostlund, Jr., of Westminster, Colorado; Nancy Essery of San Diego, California; Tom Ostlund of Cheyenne, Karin Ostlund of Denver, Colorado; Patrick Ostlund of Douglas; Jane Gebhart and Scott Ostlund, both of Gillette. His mass of Christian burial was held on May 3, 2004, at St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church in Gillette.[2]​ ​


  1. Social Security Death Index:
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 John Ostlund obituary. Stevensonfuneral Retrieved on September 9, 2019.
  3. Axel Roberts "Bob" Ostlund. Retrieved on September 9, 2019.
  4. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1538.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Remount Ranch.; no longer on-line.
  6. John C. Ostlund. Quite a Life. Elton-Wolf. Retrieved on September 9, 2019.

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