Ralph Leland Ostrander, age 81, passed away on May 26th, 2023, at Bryan West Medical Plaza in Lincoln, Nebraska. Services will be held at Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church, 8550 Pioneers Blvd, Lincoln, Nebraska, on Monday, July 17th, at 11 AM. A reception with lunch will follow. We will remember and celebrate his life.
To most, he was known as Leland or Lee. To many, he was known simply as “Coach.”
This is who he was as much as what he was. In short, he was a coach and a craftsman.
He was born in Rushville, Nebraska December 3rd, 1941. He was the son of Norma Lucille Ostrander (Poage) and Ralph John Ostrander. He is survived by his wife, Dana; his sister Elaine; his four children Joan, Deborah, John, and Matthew; and his nine grandchildren.
As a young man, he was a good student but drove his mother to her wit’s end, an educator herself. In adolescence, he encountered hardship. Spiritually he was disenfranchised. As a senior in high school, just as he began to find friendship with his father, he witnessed his death as he sped to the hospital. His father passed away, succumbing to a heart attack at a far too early age.
He consistently said that the sweet, caring, and supportive woman that would become his wife “saved” him. She did. She helped him to recover from the untimely death of his father.
To the many who knew him well, we knew that he did not – he could not – tolerate shoddy work. He was, in his nature, a craftsman. He required mechanical precision, like the hot rods with which he was so familiar. He demanded excellence from himself and those in his circle of influence. And he did so more by example than anything. Everything he did was precise. His knowledge of woodworking, firearms, cars, and coaching seemed unending. And he applied his expertise to awe-inspiring degrees.
These activities he undertook demand a verdict. The results cannot be obscured. The car runs well, or it does not. The rifle hits its target, or it does not. The woodwork’s form and function are sound, or they are not. His teams win, or they do not. It is an outcome-focused existence. The results are what they are and can never be faked. And he valued people to be what they are. He did not mingle with the pretentious. He valued integrity and sincerity, and he was those things himself. When asked what it means to be an Ostrander, he responded with one word: “Integrity.” This integrity and disdain for pretense largely defined him as a man, and he expected it from others.
It would be one thing to simply say that he demanded excellence of himself and those he touched, but there is more that explains why he was so influential. He cared deeply for people. The people around him admired his sincerity, commitment to excellence, and reputation for achieving it. But when someone you admire for these things makes you believe they are within you, they become more than someone who can do things well. They reach greatness. This was his coaching nature.
This man who gave his mother fits over mathematics at the dining room table went on to earn his bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. These degrees centered around his passion for craftsmanship and further honed his coaching penchant. He taught and coached many across the States of Nebraska and Wyoming for nearly 50 years. He influenced scores of students. They call him “Coach” to this day. They respected him for the craftsman that he was, but they loved him because he coached them all to be more than they thought they could be.
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