The Nypens lived in a large, two-story, older home provided by the school and located near it. Gerry said whenever there were winter storms threatening the area, Burton would be up early to decide whether or not he should close or delay school.
“About 4 a.m., he’d be checking on the weather. Burt would be out on the highways, driving, checking on road conditions,” Gerry said.
The day of the blizzard started out with relatively mild temperatures, causing many to think they would be enjoying an unnaturally pleasant winter day. Reality would prove to be shockingly different.
School had barely begun when snow, driving wind and plunging temperatures made it apparent that a surprise blizzard was bearing down on the region. Students were loaded into buses by 9:30 a.m.
John Mount, Harley Peters and Don Grossman were the bus drivers who found it necessary to turn back to the school, unable to see enough to drive safely. Roger Amborn delivered all of his students, but could not get home, and stayed overnight with the Earl Melberg family. John Berlinger and the children on his bus stayed with Floyd and Dorothy Zimmerman.
Because Chokio’s buses did not have two-way radios, Clayton Kolling could not simply call in to the school to let them know his bus was stranded several miles south of town. However, telephones were working, and calls were flying all over the community, especially to the Superintendent’s office.
“Burt was a calming person, and he tried to reassure others. He was a hard worker for the school system,” Gerry said.
As the day wore on and early attempts to reach the bus failed, the tension rose.
“Someone called Burt and told him ‘I hope you have a heart attack,’” Gerry recalls. While her husband was handling the ordeal at school, Gerry was “at home, taking phone calls,” she said.
Finally the rescued children arrived at the school to warm up, eat and connect with the families that would provide overnight hospitality.
This writer recalls her father, Larry Stillwell, telling how Supt. Nypen had tears rolling down his face when he stood at the door as the children walked in.
After closing up the school, Burton returned home, where he and Gerry provided overnight hospitality to a couple of bus drivers and children.