Thomas J. Ponder
On August 27th, Thomas J. Ponder, 89, laid down his carpenter's hammer for the last time in the home he built, with family and friends at his bedside. Thomas Julian Ponder who was known as "Dude" to all his Midwestern friends and family, was born March 21st, 1918, in rural S.W. Missouri, near Poplar Bluff. He graduated in 1937 and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was sent to Wimer, Ore., near Grants Pass and was also stationed at Oak Harbor, Wash., Mt. Rainier and Glacier National Park. He briefly returned to Missouri and then joined his brother, Dick, in Los Angeles where he eventually worked at Lockheed. He was proud of being a Golden Gloves boxer at the Olympic Club, and was still at his fighting weight of 135 in his 80s. He enlisted in the Navy during WWII, married Georgia Keeler, who was a WAVE in 1941, and had a daughter, Julie, born in 1946 before later divorcing. He met Sylvia Silverness while both working at the car dealership of C.S. Howard, the owner of the famous racehorse, Seabiscuit. Tom & Sylvia were married on September 4th, 1949. Tom became a carpenter in California, Montana, and Oregon, and was proud of his almost 60 year membership in the Carpenter's Union. He was involved in many projects in the Rogue Valley including the Medford Shopping Center, the Bowmer Theatre, Lost Creek Dam, and many commercial and medical facilities in the Medford area.
Their son, Mike, was born in April, 1953 in Los Angeles, Calif., and due to the fond memories of Tom's CCC experiences and the urgings of a coworker who relocated to Medford, the family bought two acres in the White City area, moved up in May, 1958, and began work on building a house. Pati arrived in December, 1959, and Sandra in December, 1963. The 1960s and 1970s found the property the center of neighborhood activities. Years after the kids grew up, people would show up to play football or baseball at "Ponder" Stadium.
Tom & Sylvia loved the outdoors and spent as much time as possible enjoying the scenery, whether by hunting and fishing, or just going for scenic drives. Tom was happiest when he was on the road by car, bus or train. Macular degeneration took away his ability to drive or read in the early 1990s, but he remained an enthusiastic passenger and navigator for the rest of his life. The loss of Sylvia in March, 1994, was difficult for him but he stayed active and involved in his kid's and grandchildren's adventures. He was a gifted storyteller with a prodigious memory. He kept dozens of phone numbers, account numbers and schedules of loved ones in his head and amazed everyone with his recall. He was an eager fan of his grandchildren, and attended many sporting events and musical activities in support of them.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his siblings, Dick, Herschel, David, and Bina. He is survived by his kids, Julie Rogers of Largo, Fla., Mike (Dianna) Ponder of Portland, Ore., Pati Reel of Medford, Ore., Sandra (Steve) Essary of Medford, Ore., and his former daughter-in-law, Diane Ponder of Portland, Ore. His grandchildren are Doug, Laurie, Sean, Vanessa, Cody, and Evan. His great-grandchildren are Sarah, Tyler, Kaden, Crystal, and Bennie. He appreciated his continued connection with his brother Herschel's sons, Colin, Julian, Pete, Paul & Bill, and his cousins, David, Ann, and Max. He also was grateful for the friendship and support of his neighbors, especially Betty Rowland, and her PT Cruiser.
As a life-long St. Louis Cardinal fan, Tom would like to thank the Cardinals for winning the World Series last year so he wouldn't have to wait forever. He enjoyed following the Cardinals the last two years on his XM radio.
In lieu of flowers, he would appreciate an extra donation to a cause or organization you support. He would also encourage everyone to take time to acknowledge and appreciate friends and family while you have a chance. We were all grateful for the "Farewell" tour we were given during August as friends and family visited.
Special thanks go to the Oregon Council of the Blind and the doctors and nurses of Providence Medical Center. We know he was particularly grateful for the support of Dr. Schultz and Tanya of Providence, and Dr. Allen & Erwina of the Veteran's administration.
Services will be 9:00 a.m. on Friday, at Perl Funeral Home, 2100 Siskiyou with graveside services following at 11:00 a.m. at the V.A. Cemetery in Eagle Point.
Thomas J. Ponder
Thomas J. Ponder