He was the baby calf’s best friend.
Longtime Gettysburg, SD veterinarian Martin Charles “Doc” Nold died Sept. 5 in Anchorage, Alaska, fulfilling a bucket-list dream of visiting family, while seeing the forty-ninth state. He was 87 years old.
The funeral was Friday, Sept. 15 at Gettysburg United Methodist Church with Pastor Jeff Adel officiating. Arrangements are through Kesling Funeral Home/Luce Funeral Home, with burial at Gettysburg Cemetery. Pallbearers were all the grandchildren.
While on his “trip of a lifetime,” Doc’s mighty heart finally gave out. But in his last hours, he kidded medical staff, was lovingly ornery to beloved daughters and demanded his cell phone be brought bedside because, you know, someone might have a question about sick calves. It was Dr. Martin Nold at his very best, to the very end.
He was a depression-era child, born Aug. 10, 1930 on the Nold homestead, near Onaka. The four Nold brothers and sister helped their parents, Leo and Katherine, scratch out a hardscrabble life on a prairie that was anything but bountiful. While the black and white photos shot by his mother capture the era’s hard times, they also burst with the antics, energy and ingenuity of an extended close-knit farm family. This upbringing was a cornerstone for Doc’s bootstrap work ethic and his esteem for all those that made a living from the land.
Following the family’s move to town, he graduated from Gettysburg High School in 1948. He married his hometown sweetheart, Marla Hobus, in 1955.
Part of the Doc Nold story is the winding trail taken to achieve his veterinary degree. While attending ISU and SDSU, he struggled through financial hardship, little support and classroom challenges. But he persevered and graduated in 1956 from the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine. The trial that was his early college years blossomed into unexpected empathy from him in later years, for those going through their own life challenges.
Upon graduation, the couple returned to Gettysburg, taking over the basement office from the town’s previous veterinarian in 1957. With his dad as office manager, his wife as bookkeeper and what became his longtime right-hand man in Delmar Eldeen, the foursome went to work. Vast miles were covered tending to beef and dairy cattle, sheep and hogs. Rounding out the vet calls were visits to treat barnyard fowl, dogs, cats, broncs and buffalo, reflecting a bygone era before veterinary specialization became the norm.
A small group of men and women were also employed over the decades that were devoted to the irascible veterinarian. They worked for him as herd and farm managers, hired men, office help and bookkeepers. This diverse group helped save him from himself innumerable times. They also became part of the family.
The next generation of the Nold Veterinary Supply work force, also known as Doc and Marla’s seven children, was born from 1956 through 1972. The youngsters grew up in the office, and were the ‘work builds character’ backbone of the 24/7 vet practice that spanned over six counties.
And then there was the great passion of his life. He preferred them long of body, sound of structure and efficient of resources. Doc evolved into a devoted grandfather, amusingly entranced by the grandchildren’s personalities while marveling at the appearance of great-grandchildren. But he was absolutely captivated by the breeding of cattle.
By the 1970s, the family’s Nold Weston Shorthorn cattle herd was a seedstock powerhouse. The bulls and females were champions at prestigious events like the Chicago International Livestock Exposition, National Western Stock Show, American Royal, Dixie National and state fairs across the Midwest. With his one-of-kind quotability, he was a sought-after industry speaker and featured in numerous national cattle publications. The family sold cattle to customers across the country, and into 3 continents. His practical side also saw this as another value-added opportunity for his kids, as they spent untold hours building even more character doing cattle chores.
Despite show ring success, Doc and Marla were cut from the same unpretentious cloth. Any national trophies earned were buried under the kid’s local 4-H projects. His greatest satisfaction from breeding Shorthorn, Saler and Angus cattle, besides that of building a good doin’ herd, was the lifelong friendships made.
By the 1990s, the vet practice began shifting its emphasis to research and development of its own line of pro-active animal health products. Decades of experience working with hundreds of cattle and hog producers along with persistence, a healthy skepticism of conventional wisdom and an encyclopedic knowledge of pathogens were Doc’s arsenal. He wielded them to create a product line of USDA-approved autogenous biologics, essentially custom vaccines that target specific strains of diseases. Always keeping the baby calf and rancher in mind, Doc’s products were field-tested. If they didn’t work in his own herd, they weren’t good enough for his customers, some dating back over 50 years.
A grandson summed up his life with this excerpt. “He had a knack for reinventing himself to keep up with the times, whether it was through incorporating key ag technology on the farm to the countless cattle vaccine breakthroughs he pioneered. There just was no quit in him, handling cattle up into his 80s. He was self-made, through and through. Supremely brilliant in some ways, but uniquely flawed in others, he was truly enigmatic. Grandpa was a presence like no other, with forceful but funny quips dotted with colorful language. All that knew him will miss his ornery nature, his highly heritable trait of instigative teasing, pointed bluntness and talking in a big circle to a brilliant, climatic point.”
Doc was a member of the American Angus Association and the South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association. He was an avid 4-H and FFA booster. When asked about religion, he would always say he was a careless Methodist. Classic Doc.
He was recently preceded in death by his wife, and niece Lauri Hobus. Also preceding him were his parents and siblings Roy (Emma), Dale (Myrt) and Ruth (Maurice) Hobus; and grandsons JT Nold and Trevor Paterson.
He is survived by his brother Don (Evie), sister-in-law Myrt, and many nieces and nephews. Then there are his children, survivors all, overflowing with character and the stories of their parents: Marj and Rocky Blare, of Ideal; Chuck and Katie Nold, of Onaka; Kim and Bruce Paterson, of Johnston, Iowa; Jerry and Rosie Nold, of Brookings; Roger and Joan Nold, of Morgan, Utah; Joan and Ted Wagner, of Arvada, Colorado; and Beth and Will Hastings, of Eagle River, Alaska.
Finally, these 21 grandchildren will never forget this man and his raucous laugh: Tucker Blare, Trent Blare, Jena (Luke) Littau and Cale (Malori) Blare; Clint (Sarah) Nold, Mark Nold and Jack Nold; Molly Paterson, Caleb Paterson and Carter Paterson; Mary Nold, Emily Nold and Josie Nold; Zach Nold and Jacob Nold; Lydia Wagner and Leo Wagner; Wade Hastings and Paul Hastings. Eight great-grandchildren round out the herd.
Memorials will be split between 4-H, a student education/scholarship fund and veteran’s causes.
Martin Charles “Doc” Nold
He was the baby calf’s best friend.