Whenever Nelson County Sheriff David Hill heard the name “Johnny,” the smiling face of John W. Ponton popped up in his head.
“He was a fixture in the community,” said Hill. “He would leave you with a laugh and a smile.”
Nelson County is mourning the passing of “Johnny” Ponton, who died Nov. 8 at age 77. The Lovingston resident and county native worked for many years as a real estate agent in Nelson and surrounding counties and later started a woodworking business. He also served on the Nelson County Board of Supervisors from 1992 to 1998.
The current board honored Ponton’s memory during its moment of silence period at its Nov. 9 meeting.
Supervisor Tommy Harvey, the only current board member who served alongside Ponton, said his former colleague was a good friend.
“He was Nelson County,” Harvey said. “He’s the typical Nelsonian... He loved this county. He really did.”
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Harvey said Ponton was excellent to work with on the board.
“It was about Nelson County,” he said of Ponton’s public service. “He was definitely dedicated to the county.”
A graduate of Nelson County High School, Ponton was a member of the alumni group that created the Catherine Whitehead Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships annually to Nelson graduates. He was involved in fighting hunger and he and his wife, Sharon, began the Blessings Pantry project in the county.
“Affectionately known as Mr. Nelson County, Johnny spent his life in service to his community through many small acts of kindness,” his obituary from the Wells/Sheffield Funeral Chapel states.
Hill said he came to know Ponton growing up in Nelson on the ball fields, describing him as “one of those Nelsonians” who everyone knew and was deeply involved. He formed a connection with him and said many others had as well.
“He knew how to read people,” Hill said. “That I will greatly miss.”
Hill said Ponton would often stop by the sheriff’s department, engage in small talk and share laughs.
One year Ponton had the idea to provide people coffee on the corner of a busy highway stretch, Hill said.
If he disagreed with someone politically, he still got along with them and remained on good terms, Hill added.
“He was always good to me,” Hill said of Ponton’s encouraging presence.
Hill said Ponton suffered injuries in a recent vehicle accident and the sheriff called to sing “Happy Birthday” during Ponton’s hospitalization at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.
“He’ll be greatly missed,” Hill said.
Sharon Ponton said her husband loved helping others with small acts of kindness. “That’s just the kind of person he was,” she said.
He wanted to bring jobs to Nelson and engaged in efforts to beautify the community while serving as a supervisor, she said.
“He loved the community, he loved the people,” Sharon Ponton said. “He wanted what was best for Nelson.”
A celebration of Ponton’s life service was held Nov. 14 at Calvary Baptist church in Lovingston. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, Blessings Food Pantry, c/o Hal Loken, Treasurer, 2500 Dark Hollow Rd., Roseland, VA 22967 or the Catherine Whitehead Scholarship Fund c/o Walter Quick, 202 Mountain View Lane, Arrington, VA 22922.