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A Where Are They Wednesday with Martha Opstvedt Blount

Pictured is Martha with her husband, Jon

Martha Opstvedt (pronounced “Upstreet”) Blount, a 1981 graduate of Nevada High School, has so many incredible mem ories of Nevada, locals will have to keep reading this story to see if they remember all the things she recalls about growing up here.

“I am, and probably always will be, a small-town girl at heart. I think Nevada taught me to take care of one another by looking out for your fellow neighbors,” said Martha, who is 58 and now living in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

“I will always call Nevada home,” she noted, and she’s hopeful her class will hold its 40th reunion this year. “If I remember right, we were the largest graduating class up to that time.”

After graduation from Nevada High School, Martha attended Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State, in Kirksville. She majored in Special Education. “I credit my love of Special Education to Ray and Ruth Long. They were our neighbors in Nevada. They fostered special needs kids, and those kids were my playmates. One in particular was a girl named Mary Ellen. She had Down Syndrome. She was an eager learner. I loved playing school with her under the apple trees in the back yard. I have always credited her with giving me the inspiration to teach,” Martha said. She received her bachelor’s degree in education in May of 1985.

Now retired from the Dallas Independent School District, Martha taught Special Education for 35 years. She started out in Houston, Texas, teaching one year, before moving to Dallas, where she spent the next 34 years.

The Blount boys and their partners.

“Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers out there,” she said. “When I would see the little victories my students made, my heart would leap with joy. I never forgot that parents entrusted me with their children, and I hope I never disappointed them.”

Martha makes it clear the pandemic didn’t influence her decision to retire last year. “2020 had always been my plan. I thought that was a nice round number. I have the utmost respect for those who have been in the trenches this year giving it their all.”

Martha is a busy retiree. “I volunteer at various events in the city. I have recently been a volunteer at the FEMA immunization mega site in Dallas. I got to meet some interesting people while they waited their 15 minutes after injection,” she said. Her family also spends the Sunday before each Memorial Day placing flags at the DFW National Cemetery. “It’s a beautiful sight to see,” she said.

Martha and Jon have been married since 1989. He is an e-commerce specialist for Rexel Holdings, North America. “Jon and I enjoy volunteering, shopping at flea markets and estate sales, and taking little road trips around the area,” she said. Her husband is also involved with Scouting, both at the local and national levels.

The Blounts raised three sons, and Martha said they are lucky to have all

three boys still living in the area. Two are married and the youngest is in a serious relationship. “I’m waiting impatiently to join the Granny Club,” Martha said. She has three “granddogs” to spoil in the meantime.

Remembering Nevada

Martha said she tries to get back to her hometown once a year. Her most recent trip was in March.

Martha has a brother and sister-in-law living in Story City and a bunch of cousins in the area, too. “My best friend, Sandy (Young) Conrad is in the area, as are Lisa (Knott) Anderson and Julie (Banks) Oxley. Rosemary Hinderaker is like a second mother to me. I make a point to stop and get a hug from her every time I’m back.”

When she’s back in Nevada, Martha has the following seven-part “must-do” list:

1. George’s for sausage and mushroom pizza and cheese bread;

2. Starbuck’s for a beef burger and cheese curds;

3. Ben Franklin to check out all the fun stuff;

4. Buying kringla at Fareway;

5. Multiple trips to Fareway or Hy-Vee to stock up on AE dips, cottage cheese, and chocolate milk;

6. Breakfast at Snack Time;

7. Dinner and a margarita at Mi Casita.

“If I’m lucky to be back home during the holidays, I will indulge in AE eggnog. I am forever on a quest to find some that is just as delicious here in Texas,” Martha said.

Being back in Nevada is also about memories:

  • Memories of high school when she was a member of the Nevada marching band. “I played trumpet. I still remember all the practices on the field to get the marching routine that Mr. Lingwall designed just right. There were many cold mornings that our mouthpieces froze to our mouths!” She also remembers a magical exchange trip with a band from New York, marching in the Peach Bowl Parade, playing at Disney World and a trip to Clear Lake that resulted in the majority of the band getting heat exhaustion.
  • Memories of being in the choir and swing choir. “Mrs. Morrical was so much fun!”
  • Memories of being a member of the Nevada Dew-Drops 4-H club. “Gloria Jacobson was our leader. She is the one who tried to teach me to sew. Sad to say, I wasn’t an attentive learner.”
  • Memories of riding bikes all over town without worry, but including a few wipeouts. “I still have scars from some of them,” she noted.
  • Memories of going outside in the mornings and staying out until the street lights came on. “Everyone looked out for one another. I can’t even begin to count all the extra moms and dads I had. If we got out of line, someone would put us back on track.”
  • Memories of holidays and parades. “I remember the parades for Memorial Day and Fourth of July. I loved driving into town and seeing all the American flags at the cemeteries.”
  • Memories of the 4-H Fair and eating at the Methodist Church stand.
  • Memories of lilacs and other things that grow in Iowa. “Oh, how I miss the smell of lilacs each spring. I also miss rhubarb, making little people with peonies, and picking cherries straight off the trees.”
  • Memories of fresh donuts and cookies from Nevada Bakery. “We served sandwiches on their silver dollar rolls at our wedding. I told our guests that the rolls were imported all the way from Iowa. I had the opportunity to visit Bricktown Bakery in March. I am so happy to see a bakery back in town.”
  • Memories of getting a candy bar from the Samuelsons each Halloween. “Some of us were lucky enough to get money inside the wrapper. There would also be the call on Halloween night. If you were called and were home, you got to pick something out at one of the stores in town. I still have a mental image of the boxed costumes with the plastic masks that would be lined up along the walls when Ben Franklin was on the opposite corner of where it sits today.”
  • Memories of other businesses. “I remember going to Tipton’s and Gandrup’s. It was fun to get something from the soda fountain at Daehler’s. I loved buying bubble gum at Hunt’s.”
  • Memories of playing at north park. “It will always be north park to me, no matter what it is currently named,” she said.
  • Memories of Iowa snowstorms and tornadoes. “I still go outside to watch the storms and am giddy whenever we get to see snow (in Texas), although the storm this past February was a bit much.” She said the hardest part of that storm was being without power for three-and-a-half days.

Martha also recalls the special people who influenced her in positive ways during her time in Nevada. “Mrs. Jacobson taught me to read in first grade with ‘Dick and Jane’… Mr. Frank taught me it was against the rules to throw snowballs at recess and especially wrong to hit the principal with one. I still have bad aim to this day! I must give a shout out to Coach Kellogg. He taught me and countless others to drive. Bless that man and his patience!” And she remembers JoAnn Hunt and Dr. Meyers. “JoAnn gave me my first job at the grocery store, and Dr. Meyers pierced my ears.”

She could go on, with the memories and the people who helped shape her life. “I think of them often, and they bring a smile to my face.”

She continued, “Nevada will always be a part of me. I live up to the statement of ‘You can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl.’ I will always be an Iowa girl at heart.”

Written by Marlys Barker, City of Nevada

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