David E. Poncin, 81, of Grangeville, passed away Sunday, December 23, 2018 at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane after a long struggle with congestive heart failure.
Born May 15, 1937, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to parents Aleta A Stenner Poncin and Lee Howard Poncin, Dave was the youngest of five children. He gained his work ethic delivering newspapers, working as a sales clerk in a produce market and as an apprentice meat cutter in a small meat market. During his high school summer vacations he traveled to visit his aunt and uncle in Polson, Montana, and was smitten with the love of fishing, hunting and all things outdoors.
With help from his high school English teacher, as a senior Dave applied to work a summer job with the US Forest Service. He was accepted for the job and after graduation in June of 1955 he headed west to work at Headquarters, Idaho as a “Ribes Goon” in the blister rust camps. That fall he enrolled in the University of Montana Forestry School, and the next fall met incoming freshman Emily Laverne Bach. Dave worked his way through college, doing a variety of forestry related jobs including a stint on Mount Jumbo Lookout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, writing poetry in his letters to Emily during their long summer absence. In 1958 he became a smokejumper – fighting wildfires was always his favorite: as he loved to say, “The pay was poor but the hours were good.”
After finishing college together, Dave and Emily were married on September 17, 1960. “We were young when we married and think we grew up together.” In August of 1960, he got his first permanent job with the Forest Service in Lincoln, Montana. Both of his children, David and Greg, were born during their three years there.
As with most Forest Service employees Dave and his family moved frequently: from Lincoln, MT to Kooskia, ID in 1964; Libby, MT in 1971; Gardiner, MT in 1976; Eureka, MT in 1978; and finally Dave and Emily moved last to Grangeville, Idaho in 1983, where they have remained in retirement. During his career, he was a forestry generalist doing many jobs in a District position: timber sale prep and administration, fire control, District Ranger at Gardiner and Eureka, and finally the Fire, Recreation, and Lands Staff Officer on the Nez Perce and then the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Fire Management was Dave’s passion; he worked on fire teams his entire career, becoming a National Fire Boss, which during his tenure became known as a National Incident Commander. He led a Type 1 Incident Management Team, one of 16 in the nation, from 1981 culminating with the Yellowstone Fires of 1988, for which he received the United States Department of Agriculture Award for Superior Service.
Dave and Emily valued participating in the communities where they lived, taking on civic responsibilities and volunteering where needed. Because of this willingness to work in the community they had many valuable experiences and felt accepted as a family wherever they lived.
Dave was active in Lions Club International where he served as President of four clubs in communities where he lived. He was also an active member in the Grangeville United Methodist Church, and was President and Board Member of the Grangeville Chamber of Commerce; was on the Syringa General Hospital Board of Trustees and was a Hospital Foundation member. He was honored with the International Lions Club Melvin Jones Award for dedication to community service and was recognized as a Forestry Pioneer by the MT Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for his cross-boundary work in wildland fire management.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Emily, and their sons David R. Poncin and his wife Tina and granddaughter Camille, of Pray MT; and son Gregory E. Poncin and grandchildren Lavine, Nolan, Akeelah, and Moneque of Kalispell, MT. Also surviving are his sisters Joan Ortmann of Columbia Falls, MT, and Donna Chapmon of Lakeside, MT. He was preceded in death by his mother Aleta A. Poncin, father Lee Poncin, brother Richard Carey, and sister Elaine Miller.
Funeral services are scheduled for January 4th at 11:00 a.m. at the United Methodist Church in Grangeville. Inurnment will be in Helena, Montana, at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery the following week with a reception following. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, memorials to Syringa Hospice or the Grangeville United Methodist Church.
Emily, David, and Greg extend their deep appreciation to the staffs at Syringa General Hospital in Grangeville and Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane for their inspirational care and compassion to all of them during Dave’s illness.
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