Gerald Mahlon Ostler, 88, loving husband, father, and friend, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, March 24, 2023, when his faith became sight.
Gerald was born September 23, 1934, in Jerome, Idaho, to Gerald W. and Doris E. Ostler. When he was five, the family moved to Gooding where Gerald’s father worked as a mail carrier. It was at that age Gerald began violin lessons. Gerald was seven when the family moved to Boise for a year while his dad worked as a mechanic for Gowan Field. Gerald continued his violin lessons in Boise.
In 1942, they moved to his grandfather’s farm six miles west of Jerome to take over its operation. He worked hard alongside his dad. They grew alfalfa and grain for their cows, beans, onion, and carrot seeds which they sold to Northrup King in Twin Falls. He milked cows, and raised chickens, pigs, a horse, and steers for 4-H. He loved to hunt pheasants with his favorite dog, Duke. A special memory was time spent listening to the radio with his grandpa when the Twin Falls Cowboys Baseball Club was playing.
Gerald attended Appleton School through 8th grade, in which year, 1948, he contracted Spinal Meningitis and had to spend several months in Boise for care, thus having to repeat the 8th grade. The virus left him without hearing and a constant ringing in his right ear the remainder of his life. He joined the Army National Guard while a senior in high school. He graduated from Jerome High School in 1953, and married Donna Marie Hite, June 19, 1954, on her family’s farm west of Jerome. The couple moved into town and Gerald worked for Volco’s, the Northside Auto Store, and continued to farm a bit to keep from being bored, helping his dad do repair work for farmers on combines, swathers, and sheep sheds.
As a young married couple, Gerald and Donna, were invited to church one Sunday by their friends, Bill and Winilah Mobley. It was while attending the Jerome Bible Baptist Church that they both gave their lives to Christ, and were members there serving in numerous capacities throughout much of their lives.
In 1955, Gerald went to work for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and received special training at Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo, then transferred to Arco, Idaho in 1957. Because he wasn’t able to transfer to the Arco National Guard Unit, a year later he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Bootcamp was in Fort Ord, California, and then he was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Gerald had every intention of making the military a career, but one year later, while in Virginia, his father passed away abruptly. Gerald’s mother asked him if he wanted to take over his dad’s recently acquired upholstery business and he decided to. The Army granted him a hardship discharge.
He learned the upholstery trade quickly and skillfully, and added selling and laying carpet to the mix, thoroughly enjoying the work. His upholstery work was beautiful, and over the years became widely known in the Magic and Wood River Valleys, working with interior designers, Charles L’Herisson, and Charles Stuhlberg, among others. He reupholstered work for the Hemingways, Walt Disney, Rockefellers, and others, including interior cushions for Teater’s Knoll the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Hagerman. One of his jobs was photographed and featured in Town and Country Magazine. The upholstery shop moved many times, and eventually ended up as a shop addition to the couple’s home on Tenth Street in Jerome.
In 1959, their first of four children came, a daughter, Jeri, followed by Lori in 1961, Zane in 1964, and Jay in 1969. During this time, Gerald would also begin driving bus for the Jerome School District, which he did for 11 years. He was well-liked and respected by his charges.
Gerald took his family on countless road trip adventures in the family travel trailer, throughout the western United States, Canada, and Mexico, traipsing the back roads of Idaho’s mountains, picnicking, cutting firewood, camping, and fishing. The family spent many years skiing at Soldier Mountain. Gerald became a Senior Patrolman and Leader with the National Ski Patrol there during the ’60s and ‘70s.
If you knew Gerald, you knew he had a love for country music. He worked Saturdays for a time at KART radio station in Jerome. During jam sessions he occasionally played fiddle with the Holly Huffburg Buckaroo Band, a band that played throughout the Magic Valley area, and in Jackpot on some weekends. He also sang and played his fiddle at church, often in a duet with old friend Dale Baughman. He was always singing or yodeling - with the radio, in the shower, or while he worked. He taught himself to play the harmonica and the mandolin.
From ski patrol, Gerald continued his EMT pursuits and worked in the Twin Falls Magic Valley Hospital ER to continue his training, which led to eventually purchasing the Jerome Ambulance Service in 1973, which he owned and operated out of their home for ten years. He and his team received their Advanced EMT certificates, and always pursued and expanded their emergency medical training.
In 1980, Gerald ran unopposed for the position of County Coroner, a position he held for 27 years simply because no one else wanted the job. He always maintained a loyal and honorable relationship with law enforcement in the city and county. From 1984 to 1991 Gerald served as Fire Commissioner for the Jerome City Fire Department. In 1986, Gerald was elected to the Jerome City Council and served for four years. In 1990, he was elected Mayor of Jerome and served two four-year terms. As Mayor, Gerald actively pursued and promoted economic development and new industry throughout Jerome, specifically on South Lincoln to the interstate, including the tree planting project, which he was a proud caretaker of, personally driving the city water truck to make sure the young saplings were well-watered and thriving. He was a past member of the Jerome Lions Club, Jaycees, and Jerome County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, and a life-long member of the Jerome Bible Baptist Church.
Whatever activity or hobby pursuit Gerald engaged in he was successful. He was a beautiful snow and water skier, an Idaho champion trap-shooter, a champion horse-shoe pitcher and pool player. He built furniture and turned wood, producing beautiful bowls and collectives. He coached sports and enthusiastically supported his children in the same.
In 1998, Gerald was diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis, a rare progressive wasting muscle disorder, which took him from a cane, to a walker, and finally to a mobile chair. Even with medication, he endured constant pain for the rest of his life. He met every debilitating challenge head on with strength and grace, and never complained.
In 2004, Gerald and Donna were recipients of the Jerome Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award for their community service and support, and that year the couple served as Grand Marshalls of the Jerome County Fair Parade.
After Donna passed away in 2011, Gerald soon began attending the Jerome Senior Center for lunch, then became a fixture, inevitably drawn into the pool room, where true to form, became quite successful and well appreciated for his skill, shooting from his scooter chair motoring around the table. The friendships he forged at the center were precious to him and he considered the congregate as family. He served on the Center Board for many years.
Gerald is survived by his two daughters, Jeri (Don) Jessup, Lori (Robert) Williams, a son, Zane (Lynne) Ostler, a daughter-in-law, Jodi Ostler, and grandchildren, Esther Williams, Walker Ostler, Tyler (Rahul) Lal, Jennie (Luke) Kilcup, Mason Ostler, Trever (Baylie) Ostler, great grandchildren, Theodore Gerald Kilcup, Baby Girl Lal due in April, and a sister, Debbie Ostler Sievers. Gerald was preceded in death by his wife, Donna, his youngest son, Jay Ostler, and a sister, Janice Nakashima.
Gerald’s love for the Lord, his family, and his friends were most important to him. He was a man of integrity, loyalty, filled with a sense of humor, tender-hearted, faithful, and stubborn. A humble servant of a man who modeled generosity, patience, and honesty. He led simply by example, sustained always by his faith in Jesus Christ.
We, his family, are so proud of the legacy of faith he left us. Dad was larger than life. He was OUR legend, OUR hero, and we will miss his presence tremendously.
Funeral Services will be held on Monday, April 3, 2023, at 11:00 am at Jerome Bible Baptist Church, 132 2nd Ave. E, Jerome, ID. Viewing will be held on Monday from 9:30 until service time, at the church. Burial with Military Honors will follow at the Jerome Cemetery.