Government / Politics

Joseph Ostenson memorialized in state Capitol

State Senator Anna Caballero adjourns in memory of the Hollister music instructor who died in January.

“Today I rise to remember the legacy of Joseph Ostenson,” said state Senator Anna Caballero from her podium in the state Capitol, “fondly known as ‘Mr. O.’”

The California Legislature performed several Adjournments In Memory on Feb. 22, and  Caballero spoke for recently deceased people from her 12th District, which encompasses the Central Valley from San Benito and southern Stanislaus Counties to western Fresno County.

Ostenson died in January of complications from a fall in November. His Hollister music academy—Mr. O’s Academy of the Arts—had closed in July in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joseph Ostenson plays the trumpet at the San Benito County Fair, 2013. Photo courtesy of Joseph and Francine Ostenson.
Joseph Ostenson plays the trumpet at the San Benito County Fair, 2013. Photo courtesy of Joseph and Francine Ostenson.

In her eulogy, Caballero said Mr. O “facilitated a positive introduction to music for people of all ages.” He began to facilitate this with his Rancho San Justo band teachership and continued up through March 2020 at his academy.

Caballero described the academy as “a safe haven for musicians, offering fellowship and training for people with a shared passion. He was more than a teacher. He used music to create a community.

“You could not separate Joseph Ostenson from his music, as he said: ‘You can play sports and do other activities for a short amount of time, but music is something you can do until you’re old and gray.’”

Caballero also praised Mr. O’s wife Francine and daughter Jenn, who survive him, for “playing a supportive role in his career.”

Along with Ostenson, Caballero also memorialized Lucille Barnes, the first black woman to serve as a trustee on the Mosquito Abatement Board of Merced; Toshikiyo Andy Matsui, an innovative florist and a generous donor to Hartnell College; Charlie Huddleston, a businessman and philanthropist who led the initiative to name the Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced; and Shirley Lavorato, a humanitarian volunteer in Monterey County who received the Benemerenti medal from Pope Benedict XVI.


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Andrew Pearson