Music as a piece of her soul

The late Arlene Osborn (image on chalkboard) influenced many Glenrock children and adults with her love of music.
Sandra Mudd

From the very beginning Arlene Osborn was always more than just a face in the crowd. She was a force of nature in her own right, spending her time influencing those around her, whether the humble Glenrock woman saw herself that way or not.

A woman of strength, beauty and grace, Arlene was in touch with her inner passions for moving forward through progress, helping those around her, being a best friend to her husband Jim, raising her four children to be the best the they could be, and working at fine-tuning other’s passions for playing music to match hers, all the while never allowing herself to shrink back from what mattered to her the most, even on the busiest of days.

“Mom always encouraged every single person to be the best person they could be; to live up to their full potential,” her youngest daughter, Jamie Purcell said. “She would give anyone the shirt off her back if she needed to. She was larger than life and a very strong person.”

“From the very beginning, she was a force to be reckoned with,” her oldest daughter Julia Janousek said with pride, as she recalled the story of when her family first moved to Glenrock, 37 years ago, in 1979. Their neighborhood had no street lights, asphalt streets or sidewalks. Not willing to just idly let this go, “Mom got up the next morning, gathered us together, tossed Jamie in the wagon, and walked around the neighborhood, making it her mission to get a petition signed to get it (paving and street lights) done. And she did.”

“When she put her mind on something, it stayed until it was done,” her husband Jim added.

“Another time, she took off by herself to go help flood victims in Missouri and spent the entire summert there, knowing we could take care of ourselves,” Jamie recalled, “because that’s how she raised us (children Julia, Lisa, Paul and Jamie).”

Always looking for ways to reach out to others, while never letting go of her passion for music, Arlene also spent thousands of moments of her life teaching hundreds of students how to play many different types of instruments, such as the piano, guitar, folk music instruments like mountain and hammer dulcimers, and the recorder.

Her love of music could be considered a small thing in the eyes of some compared to Arlene’s many other accomplishments: from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work the same time her Julia graduated from high school, to starting a student services community that later became Community Action in Casper, working for the Red Cross, helping with the Wyoming Congressional Award program, and building and implementing various children’s programs centered around music in her community.

But perhaps sharing her musical talents was the most profound gift she gave to others in the Glenrock community and beyond. As a passionate lover of music, entirely devoted to sharing its melody with others, Arlene would not only bring students into her home, she would go into their homes, reaching out to others in Glenrock, Casper and Douglas, strongly believing that anyone who wanted to learn to play should not be hindered by time or place, her family testifies.

Jim recalls one specific student of Arlene’s, a man named Brian who suffers from a brain injury. He would insist on her picking out sheets of music for him to play, Jim said, but he would never look at them, always playing by ear. Nonetheless, Arlene would still pick them out. That was just who she was.

And of course, neither her children nor her husband were safe from her love of music. Jamie recalls being a small child sitting under the piano listening while her mother played, as one her favorite memories of her mother.

“Mom would often times go to the senior center and sing and play for the people there,” along side Evelyn Hoover, the director at the time, filling the room with sounds from the piano, a guitar, the mandolin and a violin,” both girls noted. “And she would eventually make us get up and sing with her. There was no telling her no,” Jamie said with a subtle laugh. “Sometimes we would sing along, sometimes we would make it up.” Always passionate about making sure people had good instruments to play on, Arlene also raised money to buy the senior center a new piano and she would always take in lost pianos that needed loving care.

“I used to joke in high school that we had a 3:1 ratio of pianos to cars at our home,” Julia joked. Even so, she didn’t really mind her mother’s passion as Arlene’s love for music is also one of the many influences Julia said, among her other siblings, received from her. She fondly remembers back to when her mom would drag her to the symphony.

“It was really enjoyable because of how much she was enjoying it.”

“Whenever we would go somewhere and there would be a piano to play, the first thing she would do is play it,” Jim said, recalling a time when he and Arlene went to Vegas and upon walking in to the casino, she spotted a piano in the lobby. “She just had to sit down and play her favorite song, The Blackhawk Waltz.”

Another time, she picked up a guitar in the terminal at the Denver airport. No matter where they were or what they were doing, when Arleen would see an instrument, “It was all I could do to pull her away,” he said smiling.

Arlene often times played the piano or the oregon at church, as well, sharing her love for playing in all avenues of her life including passing her passion and talent on to her nine-year-old granddaughter, Ariel Purcell.

She would sit at the piano pecking at the keys and one day, just a little over a year ago, Arlene asked her if she would like to learn. “She started teaching her and she just took to it like a duck to the water,” Jim said, a twinkle of joy sparkling in his eye.

Although Arlene’s profound influence in the lives of her children and the many people she’s touched through her love for music and people will be missed, after 46 years of marriage and many wonderful adventures along the way, Jim can’t help but feel his wife’s presence is still with him. When it’s time for her to fully move on, “I hope she has a wonderful journey,” he said.


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