Flags at West Manatee Fire Rescue stations will fly at half-staff on Saturday, Nov. 6, in honor of John Van Ostenbridge, who died peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 30.
While the long-time Holmes Beach resident is mourned, many who knew him talk about a man who served as an assistant fire chief, a fire commissioner, a coach at the Community Center and the Rotary Club's 1972 Man of the Year.
“He was a wonderful, fantastic man who was so important to his community,” said West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price. “He coached me in baseball and he was on the fire department when I joined. He was honest, fair and truly committed to helping others.”
Larry Tyler was first elected to the board of West Manatee Fire Rescue’s predecessor, the Anna Maria Fire District.
“He was a thorough person; very dedicated,” Tyler said. “He was very in tune to letting the public know what was going on.”
Price said that Van Ostenbridge always had his sense of humor, which children loved.
“When I was a kid, we would put on our uniforms and go around asking for donation from the community for our equipment,” Price said. “Everybody wanted to ride with ‘Mister V.’”
Holmes Beach City Commissioner and former fire commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens first worked with Van Ostenbridge when she was a banker on the Island and he ran a construction company.
“He and his brother, Aaron, would come in for construction loans,” she said. “They were always joking.”
Carolyne Norwood said that she and her late husband, George, knew John and his wife, Darryl, for more than 50 years.
“There were a lot of fun times with them,” she said. “Our children were the same age, so we were always together for things at the school and the community center.”
She said that Van Ostenbridge was a very wonderful man.
“He would do anything for you,” she said. “Whatever you needed, he would be there.”
She said that when Van Ostenbridge visited George in the hospital, he got everyone laughing so hard that the staff asked if they could keep it down.
In 1990, Van Ostenbridge was given an Island Chamber Community Service award. As a mentor, Price said, Van Ostenbridge was somebody everyone could look up to.
“He taught a lot of us how to live our lives,” Price said. “He would always look to do the right thing and when he needed to make a decision, it was always about that. Once he made up his mind, that was it.”
Price said that Van Ostenbridge was the reason he became a coach at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
“I have done a lot of the things that he did,” Price said.
Price said that Van Ostenbridge’s passing is sad because we’re losing a good person.
“It’s people like him who made the Island the Island,” he said.