Highland News Leader

Know Your Neighbor in Highland: Jennifer Ostrander

Jennifer Ostrander, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, wife and mother, still manages to run multiple businesses in the Olde Wicks Factory Building in Highland with her husband Frank.
Jennifer Ostrander, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, wife and mother, still manages to run multiple businesses in the Olde Wicks Factory Building in Highland with her husband Frank. Photo by Christie Massey

Jennnifer Ostrander was not the run-of-the-mill young girl back in the 60s who was eager to get married, have babies and be a stay-at-home wife.

In fact, she had witnessed enough of her friends who had graduated school, got married, had children and then divorced. She wanted more.

Born July 14, 1966, in Bishop, California, the fourth youngest girl to three sisters, Jennifer has one younger brother. Their parents are Gary Welch and Terri Carter. The family grew up in Southern Nevada, a short jaunt out of Las Vegas, and the family spent considerable time boating on Lake Mead. Most of the youngster’s free time was in the sand lot playing basketball.

Because of having three older sisters, Jennifer usually ended up with a hand-me-down wardrobe.

“By the time bell-bottom pants were going out of style, that’s what I was given to wear,” recalled Jennifer. “So I decided to do something about it. I got a paper route delivering the Las Vegas Review Journal and bought my own clothes.”

After delivering the newspaper via bicycle for two years, Jennifer falsified her age and began working at an A&W Root Beer establishment when only 13. She said she saved that money for college expenses for the two years she attended Clark County Community College. She also spent one year working for the Internal Revenue Service, IRS.

“I took accounting classes twice and dropped them both times,” said Jennifer. “So I knew the IRS wouldn’t work for me.”

Desirous of attending the University of Las Vegas, but lacking the needed funds, Jennifer decided to enlist in the U.S. Air Force, USAF, in May 1987. She said she believed it would give her an opportunity to serve her country for two years, advance her education and get to see more of the world, especially since she was not fond of the desert.

Time at NORAD

Completing basic training in San Antonio, Jennifer then spent eight months being trained in computer maintenance and electrical school in Biloxi, Mississippi. Because of extremely high scores, Jennifer was given first choice of bases being offered; she chose the North American Aerospace Defense Command, more commonly known as NORAD, deep in the Cheyenne Mountains near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex, long dubbed “America’s Fortress,” is a bunker like no other. It sits 2,000 feet below solid granite, hidden deep in a mountain and was built to withstand any type of threat. Jennifer said it is a self-sustaining city inside with windows and walls 12 to 18 inches thick. It is a combined organization of the United States and Canada that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty and protection for North America.

Jennifer’s job was to work on and maintain a mammoth computer which stood 6 foot x 10 foot. She was then 21 years of age and like most other young women, desirous of eventually meeting and marrying someone special, but Jennifer had a list; the list.

“I’ve always liked keeping lists and being organized, so I literally made a list for myself with the attributes a man would have to possess before I’d consider marriage,” said Jennifer.

That list included a love of the outdoors, a man who had a deep respect for the sanctity of marriage, goals of his own and being a “manly man.” Being able to dance the two-step was also on the list.

Meeting husband Frank

One day while in the dining hall of the Granite Inn, Jennifer was introduced to Frank Ostrander, a USAF Computer Operator; she was 22 and he was 26. He also met nine out of 10 specifications on her list. Though he tried his best to learn to two step, Jennifer said he just could not conquer it. Evidently he fit the bill sufficiently in the other nine categories, as they married Oct. 7, 1989, and will soon celebrate 30 years.

They continued at Fort Carson, Colorado, until 1997. During that time their family increased by the birth of Bobby on May 15, 1991, and the addition of Shannon on May 6, 1995. Then they were sent to England in February 1997. He was stationed in Mildenhall and Jennifer was 30 minutes away in Lakenheath. With Y2K looming, both were responsible for network security.

Among Jennifer’s most intense memories is having been in-country when Princess Diana died.

Jennifer said, “I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when we heard the awful news.”

For a time thereafter, she and Frank traveled separately; Jennifer was sent to Germany and Frank went to Italy.

In February 2001, the Ostranders were sent back to the States and stationed at Scott Air Force Base and were there during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Jennifer went on to earn a bachelors and masters in computer information systems. Frank volunteered with the players in the Quarterback Club and Jennifer worked with the cheerleaders.

Couple establishes businesses in Highland

In 2009, after 50 combined years of military service, the couple retired and Jennifer aspired to become a “Beaver Cleaver” mother, but then went to work for Hewlett-Packard; Frank returned to SAFB in civil services.

By 2011, they had a brain storm. What if they purchased the Olde Wick Pipe Organ Factory and established a gymnastics business? That is exactly what they did. Uncertain what to name it, one evening while doodling on a napkin, the letters “CORE” took shape. Being retired military, their imaginations took over and the acronyms came to mean “Crusty Old Retired Enlisted” Elite — Core Elite Tumble & Cheer in Highland.

After seven years of gymnastics, they added a wedding venue, dance company, Highland Music School, and Heather Pearson Photo and Face It, for hair and makeup — all under one roof. In addition to a demanding schedule, the couple also volunteers for various community endeavors — the Switzerfest Homecoming and to the Veterans of Foreign War.

How did they end up in Highland?

“When my dad discovered Highland, he told me ‘it was like a remake of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry,’” said Jennifer.

And why are they still in Highland today?

“Because Highland residents are focused on the family. It’s like stepping back in time, kind of like Norman Rockwell paintings,” stressed Jennifer. “We love being patriotic and being here.”