The end of 2021 also marked another end of an era at Maple Mount with the retirement of farm manager Mark Blandford.
When Mark began working on the Mount Saint Joseph farm, Richard Nixon was in trouble over the Watergate scandal, Paul VI was the pope and Joe B. Hall was in his second season as basketball coach of the University of Kentucky.
Mark retired on Dec. 17 as the most senior employee at Maple Mount. His official hire date was Jan. 1, 1974, but he actually started working earlier than that.
“I dragged boxes down the hill as a kid,” he said in a 2010 interview, recalling his weekend duties of hauling trash. He worked around the Ursuline Sisters as a boy and had them as teachers from as early as the first grade at St. Alphonsus School.
A Blandford has had a connection to the Mount since 1874. Mark’s great grandparents, Aquilla and Louise Blandford, provided the first meal of watermelon and buttermilk for the five Ursuline Sisters from Louisville who arrived that August to start Mount Saint Joseph Academy.
Many members of Mark’s family have worked at the Mount. The longest serving members include his mother, Mary Louis, and his father, Henry, who worked on the farm, in the slaughterhouse and later took care of the grounds. His older brother Jack was assistant farm manager, serving from 1958-93, and his younger brother Rick worked in maintenance. His older brother Bruce worked on the farm from 1975-2009, the last 19 years as farm manager. Mark succeeded him as the farm manager in 2009.
Mark will continue part-time in a consultant’s role in 2022 as the farm transitions into new hands.
“The land is a part of our heritage and we are grateful for all that Mark has done to keep it productive,” said Sister Amelia Stenger, congregational leader. “The farm will continue to produce with the assistance of Mike Cecil and Bobby Glenn. They are outstanding farmers who will assist us in producing good yields. Both Mike and Bobby use regenerative farming techniques that preserve the soil.”
Mark was one of eight boys and one girl in the Blandford family. The family lived in the house his grandfather built just a stone’s throw from the Mount on Kentucky 56, just east of Mulligan Road. Bruce and his wife Sheila, another retired Mount employee, live there now.
Mark graduated from Daviess County High School. He and his wife Suzanne, a graduate of Mount Saint Joseph Academy, have two children, Cole and Kim.
Mark has been the longest serving Mount employee since Genevieve Stelmach retired in 2009. With Mark’s departure, Genevieve’s youngest son, Mike Stelmach, who runs the slaughterhouse, becomes the longest serving employee, 44 years on Jan. 1, 2022. Mike’s wife Charlotte is second in seniority with 41 years in food service.
Here are some photos of Mark through the years.