Muriel Catherine Phelan was born in Chicago, Illinois, January 11, 1910, to Alma Esterly and Vincent Baldwin Phelan. She attended schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. She was an alumna of the Livingston Academy of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C., and of George Washington University, where she was affiliated with the Alpha Delta Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority. During that time she was also an editorial assistant at the American Association of University Professors. She married Theodore Clyde Osterhaus of New York City in Arlington, Virginia, June 3, 1931.
Mrs. Osterhaus was a journalist for two newspapers in the Virginia suburbs of Washington and had articles published in several national magazines and newspapers.
The Osterhaus family moved from Garden City, Long Island, New York, to Santa Barbara in 1950, where Mrs. Osterhaus furthered her art studies with well-known artists Douglass Parshall, N.A., and Claude Buck.
Mrs. Osterhaus was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and served in every existent capacity in the lay ministry of the church. She was a member of All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church from 1950.
Mrs. Osterhaus was a longtime active Republican and served as president of the Santa Barbara County Republican Women, Federated, as well as a representative for Santa Barbara County on the California state board of the National Federation of Republican Women.
Mrs. Osterhaus was a former member of the Santa Barbara Art Association and Society of Western Artists. She also was an active member of the Cottage Hospital Auxiliary. She served on the boards of Samarkand Homeowners’ Association, Better Films Council, English Speaking Union, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, and Santa Barbara Choral Society. She was a charter member of the original Channel City Club Women’s Forum.
Mrs. Osterhaus was well known to Santa Barbarans for her fifty-plus years of pithy letters to the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Her historical archives were the basis of articles of local interest, including the Santa Barbara Historical Society’s Spring 2001 “Noticias” issue on El Mirasol.
In 2001, Mrs. Osterhaus was honored by Guinness World Records in 2001 as the U.S. record holder for “Longest Kept Diary.” Writing since January 1, 1925, she never missed a day thereafter. “A day is not complete until it is recorded,” she said. Although her eyesight faded in her final years, she still wrote faithfully even when she could no longer read what she had written. Ending in March 2002, her diaries encompass over 78 years.
Mrs. Osterhaus was preceded in death in 1977 by her husband and her eldest daughter, Esterly Osterhaus Palme, and her sister, Virginia Phelan Reid, in 1991. She is survived by daughters Stefani Osterhaus Chamness of Hawaii, and Clyde Osterhaus Thayer of Santa Barbara; six grandchildren — Theodore Colvin Palme of San Francisco, Pamela Esterly Palme and Christopher Alexander Palme (Elizabeth) of Santa Barbara, Peter Lee Chamness of Santa Barbara, Laura Hunter Keenan (Edward) of Grover Beach and Jennifer Katherine Fier (James) of San Antonio, Texas. She is also survived by five great-grandchildren — Tyler Lee Chamness of Orcutt, Katherine Alexandra Kleving and Jadyn Grace Fier of San Antonio, Texas, and Bijan Alexander Palme and Leif Pettit Palme of Santa Barbara. Other survivors include her brother-in-law, Cleland Reid Sr. of Santa Barbara, and several nieces and nephews around the country, Europe and Africa.
Mrs. Osterhaus’ final day on Earth was recorded in the Book of Life on September 15, 2007. Memorial donations may be made to the Special Music Fund at All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church of Santa Barbara.
A memorial service was held at All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church on September 29, 2007, with the Reverend Dr. Jeffrey L. Bullock officiating. Interment was at Santa Barbara Cemetery.