by Dawne Belloise
Before the sudden death of her father when she was 16, Nancy Osmundson admits that she had led a very privileged childhood. She had the luxury of a country club life and even a baby blue carriage her little pony would surrey her around in. But all of that changed when her dad died and Nancy’s new perspective of the world in which she had been raised became the impetus for self-realization and taking responsibility for herself. It catapulted her into adulthood.
She was determined to make her own way. She had grown up shuttling between summers in New Haven and winters in Oklahoma, where her father, a prestigious research physician at Yale University, started the medical school and research foundation at the University of Oklahoma. Her mother was immersed in tons of volunteer work in both places as well as raising Nancy and her two brothers.
In school, Nancy was very involved in sports and excelled as a competitive figure skater. She recalls making the decision at 13 to remain in her school and live at home rather than take the Olympic track offered to her at a special school too far from her family. The year her father died was exceptionally rough and brought many changes.
She became financially independent by coaching figure skating. As a 17-year-old, it was quite lucrative at $35 an hour. She credits her parents, “It was a great tool my parents gave me. They put all that investment and time into what I loved and it was something I could always fall back on, a skill that I had and could always use.”
She graduated from high school in 1985 with a plan to follow her chosen path. “I had always wanted to be a doctor, specifically an orthopedic surgeon. I was fascinated with sports medicine so I went to Oklahoma City University (OCU). I had been accepted to Yale but it was so expensive and I was offered a full tennis scholarship at OCU,” she explains. She played a lot of tennis during the summer and was just good enough to get a scholarship—that’s how she paid her way through college. Her father had always told her that a good liberal arts degree was the well-rounded education medical schools were looking for: a candidate who could write and think. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, “which,” she laughs, “along with a driver’s license, you could drive a cab and that’s about all.” Nancy had been working for both the president and vice president at OCU, and the two of them convinced her to stay and go to law school. “And because I loved school, I reenrolled.” She discovered that she also loved studying law.
“In law school all you do is study,” she says. Nancy recalled having no social life whatsoever. “Every morning, I’d get up, have a cup of coffee and a bag of peanut M&Ms. The first year was brutal. They flunk out about one third of the class during the first year. There’s no socializing, you just hang out with pasty white law students,” she says, and adds, grinning, “but I loved it.” Nancy began interning with oil companies, working for Conoco for a bit, doing property and title work while still in school. She graduated from law school in 1993 and went to work for another oil company, doing the same line of work for two years.
She had met her former husband in law school and married in 1993. Her son, Thomas, came along in 1998 and daughter Tiffany arrived in 2000. While visiting friends in Sarasota, Florida, in 1995, she fell in love with the city and they moved three weeks later. At first, Nancy taught paralegal classes at Keiser University there, deciding not to take the Florida bar exams because she wanted to just start working immediately.
She moved on to become the dean of academic affairs at Keiser, and later the president of that campus when she was 28. “In between, we traveled a lot—Central America and Europe—and remodeled houses for resale. A developer hired me away from the university to develop an upscale retirement community, the Sarasota Bay Club. It was right on the water. We had three restaurants, a spa, and concierge services. It’s a life care community. Whatever healthcare you need for the rest of your life was there. I was in charge of the project with the developer. We started from square one and designed the entire project. I had to do things like rezoning and pricing, and develop everything from meal plans to medical plans to services and amenities. I was going to be in charge of running the facility once it was built, but I got pregnant with my son.” Nancy decided to stay home to be a mom since she had basically completed her job.
When her daughter was born two years later, Nancy was still involved with the mortgage and title companies she and her then-husband had started. As the companies grew and her hubby took over the business, she stayed home with the kids.
“I started coaching the competitive dance team at Saint Stephen’s school and then started the cheerleading program there. I had been a ballet dancer all my life, from the time I was six. It goes along with the figure skating. It was 60 hours a week of volunteer work,” she smiles and says she enjoyed every minute of it.
The family had a vacation home in Aspen, but they tired of the glitzy town and set out to find a real town in Colorado. “When we drove into Crested Butte, coming around Red Mountain and saw the up valley view, we knew this was the place,” she recalls. They bought the astronaut house on the mountain in 1999. Nancy visited often, vacationing with the kids.
After she and her husband divorced in 2005, she moved up permanently with her kids in August 2007. “I wanted them to grow up in an environment like I was able to grow up in but in a place where nobody cares what you have, you don’t have to lock your doors and the kids can grow up with a lot of independence. This is one of the few places in the world, certainly in the country, that you can do that. The silver lining to my father’s passing was that I had to grow up from being spoiled and entitled and I wanted that for my kids as well. I had to grow up and realize that the world didn’t treat me like Daddy did. Life teaches you what it needs to teach you if you just listen,” she feels.
Meanwhile, Nancy’s girlfriends back in Sarasota chided that she’d never last through the cold winter and she’d certainly never find a man in such a place. “I met Oz three weeks later,” she says of her husband of a decade now, Chris “Oz” Osmundson. Before she moved here, Nancy had skied maybe ten days in her entire life and she confesses, “I was not a good skier at all. Oz helped me more than anybody, even more than the lessons I took. I ski all the time now. The figure skating transfers very easily to skiing, understanding the edges and how they work. In downhill you work your edges the same as figure skating. I taught myself to skate ski as well because it’s the same thing.”
Deeply entrenched in the community, Nancy started the Adopt a Family program nine years ago, which matches families in need with adoptive donors who help ease the financial burden with gifts. “We had it in Florida and I couldn’t believe we didn’t have it here.” She was also executive director of the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation for five years, doing development and fundraising for the whole health system.
She’s recently left that position to pursue her own title company business, Master Title, which she is opening February 1, with her partner, Robert Davis, who will have his law practice as part of the business.
Having practiced both family and business law and mediation, Nancy looks forward to her new venture. “I love title work so I’m really excited about doing this. I love the searching—it’s like a puzzle to me, figuring out all the conveyances. And I love the mediation for the same reason, a puzzle to get people to craft their own resolution. If you can help people focus on their own solution, then they have more buy-in.”
Interestingly, Nancy discovered, quite by accident, at the age of 25 that she had been adopted. She had called her mother to get a copy of her birth certificate and, as Nancy observed, her mom “kinda flipped out so I called the vital records department,” and for some unusual reason was told to call the children records department, which was actually the adoption agency. She still wasn’t getting the picture when she was told her birth mother had recently called in to inquire about the daughter she had given up. Nancy assumed there had been a mistake. She never had a clue that she had been adopted. When the truth finally emerged, she learned that her adoptive father, as a physician, had seen her in the hospital when her kidney failed at two and a half months old, and he fell in love. She never told her adoptive mother that she knew the truth because she felt it would hurt her. However, she did finally meet her birth mother.
Nancy still feels that she made the right choice in moving to Crested Butte and it continues to be an amazing place to raise kids. Her son Thomas was a competitive snowboarder and Tiffany competed in skier cross. “This community is a very compassionate community, they don’t judge, they forget things very quickly and go on about their lives. The people here, when they see somebody going through a crisis, everybody pulls together to support that person. I think that’s really unique. I look at my two children and they’re the most compassionate people, they don’t judge anybody. They don’t care how much money you make or what you have. I know a large part of that’s from growing up here and that’s the best gift I could have given them. The best decision I ever made was to move here and it’s made them better human beings.”