Elna Ponto, 1916-2019

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Elna Ponto, 102, passed away March 13, 2019. A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Shawnee Presbyterian Church, 6837 Nieman Road, Shawnee, Kansas. 

Elna Ponto

Elna was preceded in death by her husband, Bernard; daughter, Barbara, and husband, Dick, and their three children; her daughter, Joy; and her son, Richard.

She is survived by two daughters, Joan and Lanny Bachtle of Shawnee, Kansas, and Ruth Ann Foley of St. Clair Shores, Michigan; 10 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

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Elna was born Sept. 14, 1916, in Nashua, Iowa, where she grew up. She lived and worked in Chicago for three years after high school. She married Bernard Ponto on April 9, 1939. In 1940 they moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  They had five children: Barbara, born in 1939; Richard, born in 1940; Joan, born in 1943; and Joy, born in 1947, who were all born in Wisconsin. In 1951 they moved to Albert Lea, and Ruth Ann was born in 1953.

It was in Albert Lea where Elna began taking college courses and eventually obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in social work from Mankato State College. She became the assistant dean of students at the local Lea College. She was active in the League of Women Voters, Junior Achievement, the YMCA, the local Art Center and Audubon Society, Area Agency on Aging and the Presbyterian church. She was appointed by governors Quie and Perpich to the Board for the Minnesota Community College system from 1977 to 1983. 

In her 102 years, Elna never did retire. She was an avid gardener.  She and Bernard had a beautiful yard and soon became interested in native flowers and grasses. She helped the Audubon Society develop the Blazing Star Trail. This was an interest that she continued when she moved to Shawnee, Kansas. Even from her wheelchair, she was able to plan and help plant plants at Shawnee Presbyterian Church grounds and Tallgrass Creek Senior Living grounds.

With determination and persistence, she was able to accomplish a staggering amount to make this a better world for humans and a healthier planet through conservation and stewardship. 

Donations in remembrance of Elna can be given to Friends of the Earth International or the National Audubon Society.