There is a story here about how you can help, ways to support a local legend who has supported our region for decades, but first let’s start at the beginning…
In 1960 a love affair began between a young fourth grader named Jerry Ostensoe and the town of Granite Falls after his parents moved there from Canby. His infatuation grew and by 1976 Jerry, returning home from college, was ready to make a commitment to this rocky lady. In purchasing his first Granite home, Jerry picked a secluded site, hidden like a secret garden off a dirt road bearing a sign saying “Welcome to Lynzier.” Being a history major and the natural keeper of a good story, Jerry dug deep and discovered “Lynzier” was named out of love, a combination of Ida Lynn and Victor Putzier, the original home owners. This name would come to carry great meaning for Jerry and the lovers of his music, eventually becoming the namesake of his own record company “Lovely Lynzier Records”, whispers of it are heard in his songs and great plans were made from the property’s porch “In the early days of Good Time Rail Road, Richard, Elmo and I sat on the porch at Lynzier and made plans to play and sing,” Jerry shared.
Jerry’s love for music started at age fourteen but he didn’t come into his own musically - and start working with other musicians, forming local bands, and writing - until his return from college to Granite Falls. Jerry went to work as a railroad laborer laying and maintaining track. The term for the gig was a “Gandy” but since Jerry was college educated, he was playfully called an “IQ Gandy” around the rail yard. Out of this work Jerry met other musicians with ties to the tracks, such as Dave Smiglewski (now Mayor of Granite Falls) who could play a mean drum. Ostensoe’s first long running project was soon formed with the band “Good Time Railroad.” The performance group was a hit in the region and played together for over 25 years.
Jerry’s music career started with Good Time, and evolved into the production of four solo albums with the first hitting the market in 1981. This was followed by decades of live upper midwest performances. His music is a rich combination of country and blues, laced with symbolism and soul so original, its as unique as his vintage western shirt collection which is unmatched even by the most timelesses of cowboys.
In 2017 Jerry received a SMAC Grant to support his songwriting efforts and afford him the opportunity to utilize some new tuning techniques as he was always studying and always looking for ways to improve. A few months into the 2017 recording project “Jerry’s voice began to fail him,” stated Jerry's wife Deb Fossan. “He was really coming into his own musically and then the diagnosis came,” she added. Jerry Ostensoe was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Now two years later, Jerry’s life is very different, but in the famous Ostensoe way he continues to do it his way. Suffering the effects of the disease he can no longer play music - a heartbreaking blow. He is mobile only by way of a standard wheelchair, but keeps his sights set on saving and getting an electric chair that affords more range of motion with less physical energy.
Jerry now communicates most easily with a series of electronic devices from the ALS Foundation. One, a tablet and computer app, allows Jerry to program commonly used phrases. He’s even been able to add his own list of comebacks. When asked what is he doing from day to day Jerry with two clicks reported “Whatever the women tell me too.” In reality what Jerry is doing from day to day is finding ways to preserve his love of music and life, working with the tools he has.
Out of the mud often a flower grows and out of this mess that has taken the voice of Jerry Ostensoe, songs will still be heard. In the process of consolidating Jerry’s belongings, friends uncovered found raw recordings of Jerry spanning multiple years. Music he had written, played, and simply never found the time to go back and edit. There were songs his listeners had never heard which Jerry is now including in one last album. In listening to one, sitting in Jerry’s sun filled study lined with relics of community adoration, tears sneak up on the eyes. It's hard to determine if its the poetry, the melody or the company of tenacious titan still conquering notes even after his voice has gone.
There are two ongoing efforts to support Jerry and his wife Deb with the care needs that are mounting as a result of the ALS. A ‘Go Fund Me’ page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/relief-for-jerry-ostensoe with a goal of raising $50,000 (currently, $2,345 has been raised). Additionally, friends of the Granite Falls singer/songwriter have organized a special fundraiser to be held on Saturday, November 16 from 5 to 10 p.m. at The Rock event and dining center at 1940 11th Avenue in Granite Falls. A free will offering will be taken at the door, there will be many items for sale and auctions will be held to help Ostensoe and his spouse Debbie Fossan defray the mounting medical bills incurred since Ostensoe was diagnosed with ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Several fellow musicians are teaming up to provide entertainment for the evening which will feature light appetizers and a cash bar. Included in the line-up of performers are Minnesota Bluegrass Ambassador Dick Kimmel, The Hep Cats ( featuring Kim Johnson, Butch Halterman, Chuck Antonson and Mike Milbrandt), Loose Gravel (featuring Lee Kanten and Carol Ford) Malena Handeen, Richard Handeen and Audrey Arner, Elmo Volstad, Dave Smiglewski and many more.
Those wishing to help with the event or to donate an auction item, please contact Nicole Zempel at 320 212-3945 -- firstname.lastname@example.org.