She remembers the construction of the old Boonville bridge, its demolition and construction of the new bridge that crosses the Missouri River. She remembers the New Franklin Viaduct being built and its demolition as well. Leona Martin has seen a lot in the century she has been living. Yet, she continues to watch the world become more complicated. A century may seem like a long time, but Martin remembers the past like it was yesterday.
Martin grew up on a farm west of New Franklin and was the oldest of three children born to Lewis and Pauline Bueker.
“We grew up pretty strict. When I was little we had mud roads. In fact, I remember when they paved Highway 5,” Martin stated.
Martin said times were sometimes not very good.
“The drought people talk about today is nothing compared to the ones we grew up with. We had pretty blue grass, but there were times it was as bare as the ground is now. Sometimes we would not have feed for the cattle. It was something,” she said.
Martin said the family got along even when the gardens were a failure.
“It was the depression and nothing was worth anything. You couldn’t even sell the cattle because no one had feed for them,” she said.
Martin said the ponds would dry up quickly because they were smaller. With springs on the farm, the family had to trek to the retrieve water for the them and the animals.
For education, Martin received an eighth grade education. She would have pursued high school, but there was no transportation.
As the years went on, Martin married Albert who served in World War II in the European front.
After the war, Martin and her husband returned to New Franklin, where they began attending the same church where she was baptized, confirmed and married. The New Franklin United Church of Christ has a pew dedicated to Martin, which has been a spot that everyone respects.
“Church means a lot to me. It hurts me that the church benches are empty. When I was growing up chairs had to be placed around the church to accommodate the people,” Martin said.
One reason Martin believes there are less people in church is the fact that young individuals do not stay in New Franklin. They go off to find more opportunities.
While Martin has seen the not-so-happy times, she has also seen the good times, including times when the City of New Franklin makes good decisions.
“The nicest thing New Franklin ever did was get this senior housing. You can go anywhere, but you will not find any better senior housing,” she added.
Martin continued to share stories with family and friends who visited her yesterday during her birthday celebration. She had advice for others who grow older. And while she may have longevity in her blood, simple advice goes a long way. Not only advice, it is something Martin has lived by.“Keep active by all means and do a lot of volunteer work,” Martin said. “Some people want to sit in a chair, but that will not work. You have to show interest in your community.”
Martin is thankful for the friendships she has made, including the ones who help her on a daily basis.
Family is also very important to Martin. With two daughters and one granddaughter, she is hopeful they all can get together this summer.