Editors Note: Valley News readers know Marcia (Marty) Napier from her weekly “Looking Back” columns that highlight the history of Grain Valley. We gave Marty a well deserved week off, deciding that she is an ideal candidate to profile in our Community Profile series. In fact, several residents have recommended we profile Marty, and we certainly agreed with the recommendation. The truth is, it is a daunting task to encapsulate Marty’s contributions and ties to Grain Valley in just a few paragarphs. Since we enjoy visiting with Marty so much, we may just make it a regular habit to get a story or two of hers to share. It is our pleasure to introduce those who may not be familiar with Marty Napier.
Few people are as familiar with Grain Valley’s history as Marcia (Marty) Napier. As the granddaughter of James Napier, the man who eventually ran Sni-A-Bar Farm after being hired by William Rockhill Nelson as the chief herdsman, Grain Valley’s history is intertwined with her family’s history.
Napier’s father, Charlie Napier, also served as chief show herdsman from 1934 to 1942. Napier and her brother Charlie participated in the family business a bit as well, buying and raising cattle through 4-H. The hobby proved fruitful for Napier and her brother.
“We would raise cows and then rebred them. And that put my brother and I through college,” Napier said.
“Room and board then was $1,000. Well, I could sell a couple of cows and pay my tuition.”
Napier graduated from Grain Valley High School in 1964; her brother Charlie graduated in 1961 and was valedictorian of his class. Napier fondly remembered sitting around with a small group of fellow high school classmates who were qualified through grades to participate in leadership positions such as student council and National Honor Society.
“There were only a few of us and several positions to fill, so we all sat around and just kind of said, ‘What do you want to do?’. I ended up as secretary of the Student Council, secretary of National Honor Society, and the editor of the school paper.”
After high school, Napier headed to the University of Missouri and studied education. She taught home economics first at Oak Grove and then at Fort Osage until her retirement in 2000.
Not long after her retirement, Napier began a second foray into guiding young people as a “house mom” for fraternities. She first served about a year at a college in Florida and then headed to her alma mater Mizzou to serve as the “house mom” for Alpha Gamma Rho. Napier was at Mizzou for 12 years.
“As the House Mother, you’re not there to make or enforce rules. You help plan Mom’s Weekend, Dad’s Weekend, Founder’s Day, and other activities. You help plan meals, and I did a lot of that given my background in home economics. But mostly, you’re there to be a mom. I did a lot of hemming pants to help guys prepare for interviews, and always had paper clips and Band-Aids at the ready. I’d keep cookies in the freezer and pop a few in the oven when the guys were up past midnight studying.”
Napier returned home to Grain Valley and pledged to friend Jan Reding that she would get involved in the Historical Society and church activities, and that was it. Anyone who knows Marty knows that promise was not kept. Napier is active in countless organizations around town, and is a regular attendee at high school activities.
Napier can be found each Wednesday at the Grain Valley Historical Society, where she has led the effort to catalog and display the Museum’s collections. Napier is an expert on Grain Valley’s history, and many have come to rely on her encyclopedic knowledge to research family history or give historical background to leaders at the City and schools.
As the cars zoomed past the front windows of the Grain Valley Historical Society Museum, we asked Napier if she missed the “old” Grain Valley and looked back longingly to when it was smaller and slower paced.
“No. I love Grain Valley today. I remember before my father died, someone was saying, ’Isn’t it sad that they’re dividing up Sni-A-Bar?’ But my dad wasn’t sad. He was thrilled to death that they were dividing up the old farm for housing and other developments. He was always for progress, and I guess I’m kind of the same way.”
“I love seeing the new high school. Who wouldn’t be proud to say ‘This is our high school.’? It is beautiful. And not only is it a pretty school, but it’s a good school. We need to embrace the changes in Grain Valley and not try to keep things the same.”
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