John Joseph Ponis, having lived a full and rich life for 85 years, died July 25, 2019, in Arvada, CO. Born 1/2/34 (no kidding) in Phoenixville, PA to George and Frances Ponis, Jack, as he was known, enjoyed an adventurous childhood in the tunnel hill neighborhood in Phoenixville along with his older brother George (Duke) and his younger sister, Arlene.
After high school Jack learned the trade of brick laying at Thaddeus Stevens Trade School. He enlisted in the Army in 1954 where he was a Military Policeman on the island of Oahu. Jack graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College (now Appalachian State University) in Boone, NC., staying another year to get a Masters Degree. He played football for four years, keeping in touch with many of his teammates over the years. Jack laughingly said he would have stayed longer but there were no more courses he could take. Obviously, college was one of the loves of his life.
Teaching was another love. Jack began his teaching career in Arlington, VA, where he met his wife to be, Roberta (Bobbie) Russell (his ultimate love) who was teaching at the same high school. They were married in 1965 and in 1967 moved to Colorado where Jack was hired to teach at Arvada West High, a position he would retire from in 1996. He was beloved by his students and was often thanked by them when he ran into them as adults with children of their own.
Jack coupled his teaching with coaching and refereeing, saving some energy for playing tennis, skiing, golfing. After a year assisting the head football coach at Arvada West High School, Jack chose to coach tennis, both boys and girls. The tennis courts at Arvada West High School are dedicated to Coach Ponis. Jack refereed many high school basketball games; refereeing some high school basketball games together with Bobbie in the late 70’s and early 80’s, probably a unique situation- a husband/wife referee team.
When Jack moved to Colorado he added another love to his life - skiing Colorado’s mountains. He joined the Loveland Basin Ski Patrol after several years of adjusting to skiing actual mountains in Colorado compared to skiing the hills of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
And finally, the most unyielding love of his life – his children: Kevin, Kimberly, and Deborah who got the full doting dad treatment. Jack was a fully engaged, enthusiastic, creative dad. Not only was Jack an engaged dad but he also served as a surrogate dad and coach for neighborhood kids and friends of his children, teaching other kids to play tennis and ski. For many years he would load up the family turquoise/white VW bus with neighborhood kids and his own and caravan down to Grand Junction where the Taco Bell family tennis tournament was held. Known as the Robb Street Rowdies, they returned home often with a boatload of trophies.
As an addition to his love list, Jack was blessed with grandchildren Brenna, Kaden, Cooper, Raleigh, Blakely, and Remy. Jack received many plaudits, inductions, recognitions throughout his life but he will be remembered best by the bottomless love he gave to his family, friends, neighbors, students, and community.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, George and Frances Ponis, and by his brother George II, (Duke). Jack is survived by wife Roberta (Bobbie), son Kevin Ponis, daughters Kimberly Greason and Deborah Erickson (Brent), sister Arlene Martin; grandchildren, Kaden Rahne, Cooper and Raleigh Greason, and Brenna, Blakely and Remy Erickson, as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
A celebration of Jack’s life will be held on Sunday, September 15, at the Allen House Pavillion in Arvada from 12 to 3. Further details of this open house celebration will be posted on this Aspen web site as details are finalized or on the Jack Ponis Celebration of Life Facebook page. Former AWHS tennis players (or others) will have access to the Coach Ponis courts to hit a few balls in Coach’s name or play “around the world”. Memories and photos can be shared by posting them to the Jack Ponis Celebration of Life Facebook page.
The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers, friends consider donating to the Arvada West High School Foundation which can be done online through the Arvada West High School website. A scholarship in Jack’s name is being established to be awarded annually to an Arvada West graduating student who is planning on a teaching career.