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Heart of Our City - Krysta Ostrom

Fourth generation of family to give heart to Prince Rupert
Loving her job as a hotel front desk agent, Krysta Ostrom is one of the first smiling faces you see as you enter the Crest Hotel. On June 6, 2020, she said it is fitting that she works in the hotel where she has such fond memories growing up having Sunday, after church brunches. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Whether it be centre-stage, centre-ice, or centre of the seas, Ostrom is a well know fourth generation family name in the northwest coast. The name on centre-page right now, is Krysta Ostrom, a 29-year-old born and bred Prince Rupert woman who gives her heart to the City she loves.

Krysta’s life started off as a little girl in a Prince Rupert cul-de-sac where the moms became best friends while the dads worked fishing. Neighbours became families, looking out for all the kids, giving rides to each other and sharing meals in each others kitchens.

“I grew up in a stereotypical nice house … It was the stuff you see on T.V. where kids bike-ride in the street and play outside,” she said.

“I was part of the generation where we would go out and play in the woods or in our backyard. Moresby was right behind us, so we would go down there and of course our parents would get mad at all us kids for doing that because of bears and wolves. We started to become more aware of them.”

One fond memory she has is of her and her brother playing around in the woods, losing track of time during the afternoon and suddenly realizing they were completely lost. The youngsters started to get anxious and upset. She had the idea to climb up on a log for a better vantage point. When she got to the top of the log she could clearly see her house and recognized they were not lost at all, and were just a stones throw from their own backyard.

She said that taught her that perspective is different for everyone. It is an ideology that she has carried with her through life so far.

READ MORE: Heart of Our City: Ron Nyce

Until COVID-19, Krysta was a youth program coach and lifeguard, teaching children how to be on their own, how to babysit, to know first-aid and how to swim. She said it’s all about creating connection and seeing things from different eyes. She mentioned a shy young boy she was teaching to swim, who was timid and didn’t like the water. As his teacher she created a bond and found common ground from just one simple line of a movie reference. Their bond grew, as did his swimming skills with dinosaur references and play.

Krysta said when she is leading young people she keeps in mind a cartoon she saw, where a bird, monkey, penguin, elephant and fish stood in front of a teachers desk. All were told to climb the tree behind them. Of course, they all couldn’t, she said. All the animals were equally intelligent, but had different abilities with individual ways of seeing and going about things. She said each one had to be taught for its own learning style, a practice she has used with the more than 100 Prince Rupert children she has coached through the Red Cross and city resource programs.

Seeing through different eyes and continued learning are concepts Krysta has developed for herself in her own life. Having traveled extensively with three different Contiki tours all around Europe, Italy, New Zealand and Australia, she said her love of travel around Europe came from stories her great grandmother would share of her own life in Ireland.

Krysta’s maternal great-grandmother, Hannah Wilson, was a war bride. She came to Prince Rupert in 1946 after meeting and falling in love with a Canadian soldier while she was a nurse in Britain during the Second World War. Affectionately known to the grandchildren as “Booie”, Hannah lived in Canada from shortly after the war until her passing three years ago. It was just ten years before her death the family learned she had never become a Canadian citizen because of a paperwork error upon landing from the ocean journey. It was just another intriguing story to Krysta which lit the burning travel lust.

“Having a great-grandparent from a different time and a different country, and her being in Canada for so long and seeing the (history) that happened in North America like when JFK got shot, and the transfer of power between kings and queens. It’s just intriguing.”

“She told me of her life in Ireland, which I thought was fascinating because everything there was so small and close together, and here we are so big and stretched out.”

Krysta said Prince Rupert is similar with its community approach and everyone looking after each other. She has always seen that in the fishing community she grew up in. Her dad is a third generation fisherman. His grandfather was a diver and came to the Northwest coast from Sweden, eventually settling in Bella Bella. Once settled, he wrote a letter back to his girlfriend in Sweden asking her to marry him. She arrived six months later.

Krista said she was told the story that when her grandparents were being raised by new immigrant parents to Canada, being ‘Canadian’ in all ways was pushed on them. She said they learned Heiltsuk fluently, and only knew swear words in their Swedish tongue.

Prince Rupert was in its booming days while Krysta was growing up in a population of 20,000. She said it wasn’t always easy for her. She said after the mill closed and people left town her eyes were opened to the situation of others.

“It was just a different feel in the town. It changed. The struggles and the socio-economics became more evident,” Krysta said.

“Like when you went to friends houses, it was just more visible. When you get older, you realize that people grow up different from you. I had a lot more friends enter the foster care system. Friends parents got divorced, and others had different issues.”

“In high school I was sort of a different duck … I suffered from depression and anxiety as a kid. I had really bad anxiety disorder where I would just get nervous about school. No one was bullying me. I had no reason to fear school, but I would just work myself up and start vomiting at the thought of school. So, high school was always really hard for me,” Krysta said.

“I had a hard time paying attention and I think it just goes back to that animal cartoon that every kid is different,” she said.

After high school, traveling on the Contiki tours helped with her anxiety. Krysta said there were elements in the New Zealand tour that pushed her out of her comfort zone, like when she did a big open aired swing over a very deep canyon. She hasn’t done it alone, the people she has met along her journeys have helped her she said.

“The people I met when travelling are still some of my good friends. We message each other and (keep in touch).”

The Australian girls made her laugh, and laughed at her in return when Krysta smacked a spider, the size of a loonie off one of their dresses. They laughed at her and explained in Australia they have spiders the size of the back of their heads.

After some months of traveling she needed down time, and to return to the home comfort of Prince Rupert. She worked in town, volunteered with hockey in the canteen and selling tickets - which still does, and then enrolled in a radio and entertainment arts program. Sadly, she faced more challenges and the anxiety and depression returned.

“Unfortunately, I only did one term. I got really sick because of my mental health,” Krysta said.

It took her and her family two years of dedication in seeking proper help for her cognitive behaviour issues to get her back on the right path.

“When I got sick, people came (to help) that I never thought would come out, and they would say to me ‘We really appreciate you’, ‘We love you’, ‘Do you need anything’. It made me realize that you don’t offer help unless you actually care, and there was a lot of people who actually cared about me … and if I was healthy. They wanted to see me smile. They wanted to see me happy.”

“In the end it was the best thing that could have happened. I am good now. I have my moments, but I’m looking for a new adventure.”

“I am lucky enough to live in a town where I was able to be supported.”

READ MORE: Heart of our city – Margaret “Grandma” Harris

Krysta loves her job now as a hotel front desk agent at the Crest.

“I’ve grown up coming to this hotel. When I was a kid we used to have brunch here after Sunday School … This is where you could just ‘be’. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are from. It doesn’t matter what you are dressed in, you are always going to be treated with respect here.”

Krysta still lives on the same cul-de-sac-street she grew up on, continues to give her time teaching children, volunteers with Rampage hockey, acts in community theatre and greets people arriving in town with a smile and a heart for the city she loves, and for which she has become the heart of.

“Prince Rupert has such a sense of community. It’s a sense of belonging and people around you. You know, someone could really (tick) you off, and hours later you pass them stranded on the side of the road. We are still going to pull over and help them, because we look out for each other. That’s just what we do.”

K-J Millar | Journalist
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