David E. Poncin, 81

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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Condolences to the family of David E. Poncin, 81

  • Doug and Charlotte says:

    Sending our love and prayers.

  • Steve Williams says:

    Emily and family,
    Dave was always better than I will ever be, knowing what to say at times like this. He always had the perfect words and thoughts to express his feelings. I do not know what to say, but please know that the things that come out are from my heart.

    Dave was a very dear friend and mentor. I loved to hunt with him, and learn from him. He taught me the most important things about being a Ranger. He taught things that you only learn from experience such as working with and being part of a local community to managing a Ranger District and caring for the people who work there. If fact, the most enduring thing I remember about Dave is how much he cared about people, and how far he would go to help anyone and everyone.

    I feel very blessed to have known and worked with Dave. He was truly one of a kind.

  • Sylvia (Bach) Theryoung says:

    Thinking of you, Emily and family, with prayers for your strength and peace.

  • The Reesman Family says:

    The Reesman Family sends condolences and wishes of comfort and peace of mind.

  • Tom Haeder says:

    Deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Dave.

    As a young adult I was frequently influenced and inspired by Dave’s demeanor. His genuine affection, his professionalism, and his approachability, to name a few. He was incredibly highly respected by everyone who knew him.

    As a Forest Service kid myself, being raised within the department and its annual relocations in the early years, reading of Dave’s familiar stops-along-the-way, brought back such fond memories of childhood; memories created by those Forest Service “pioneers” like Dave had who had the energy and enthusiasm to pursue their dream and bring the love of nature to their family. Dave was an true inspiration to many.

    The Department, the organizations in which Dave served, the communities he lived in and influenced, were so very lucky to have had the opportunity to have Dave in their lives.

    Peaceful rest Dave Poncin. Thank you, for you.

    Thomas Dewey Haeder

  • Bill andCarol Crismore says:

    Emily, we are sending our love and prayers to you and your family.

  • Mike & Marti Bushfield says:

    Emily and family;
    May the Good Lord bring you peace and comfort at this time of sadness. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Stacy Van Steenwyk says:

    Dear Emily, David and Greg,
    My thoughts are with you during this difficult time of letting go. In my experience, Dave was a compassionate man who did great things for the Forest Service and the community. I was one of the Forest Service kids that grew up learning from the people like Dave, the “old school” Forest Service. He was staff who noticed and complemented all those who worked under him, supporting many recreation projects I was involved in. He lived a good life with a big heart.

  • Vickie Peterson says:

    I am very sorry for your family’s loss.

  • NORMAN says:

    Dear Emily and family,
    I sincerely want to express my condolences to you and your family. I did not know Dave for very long, in fact just two weeks, during our canoe trip into the Bowron Area in Canada. An experience that I will always rate as one of the most enjoyable in my life. Dave played a major part in that trip. He was so understanding to such a novice, always looking for opportunities to help, and such a great man to be around. You have been very fortunate to have been his wife for all the past years. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    One of many of Dave’s friends,

  • Truman and Linda Sheldon says:

    So sorry for your loss. Loves and prayers to you and your family

  • David L. Turner says:

    I worked wild fires with David back in the 1980s when he was a Type I Incident Commander. I’m sure he never remembered me, but I certainly remember him. I was a fire information officer working for the Forest Service and by luck of the draw I was privileged to be assigned to work with his team on a number of fires. At the time, the information officer position was new to fire teams and we were not always accepted as part of the “team”, especially if one was sporting long hair and a beard! But David was different than many ICs of that period, he welcomed me as a genuine team member and included me in all staff decisions. I believe David cared less about what somebody looked like or what their sex might be and far more about how they performed their assigned tasks. He was a fair man and an excellent leader. He was also the reason I stayed with the fire program and worked fires from Colorado to Alaska for twenty years. I’ll miss him.

  • George & Lee Weldon says:

    Emily & Family,
    So sorry to hear about your loss…Dave was a great man and made everyone around him better. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
    George & Lee Weldon

  • Bret Reynolds, Boise says:

    Many years ago, Mr. Poncin was a regular customer while I was working at Blake’s Service. He was a very nice man, always greeting me and engaging me in conversation. He had a really nice truck, too 🙂 My sincere condolences to Mrs. Poncin and all his family and friends.

  • Ellen McKenzie says:

    Emily, David and Greg, You’ve been on my mind so much with the loss of Dave. What a wonderful human being! He lived an adventuresome and dedicated life, whatever he touched. He was a great supervisor and I loved that he kept a wig in his desk drawer and pulled it out whenever an occasion needed some levity. The Nezperce National Forest was so blessed to have him on the team. I’m so sorry for your loss! We were all blessed to know him. Sending you love and sympathy.

  • Ellen McKenzie says:

    Beautifully written, Tom.

  • Philip and Linda Laing says:

    Phil and Linda send their heartfelt condolences to you, Emily, and the rest of the family.
    Linda will always remember Dave’s smile and encouragements to his staff when we worked those long “fire days”.

  • Gary N. Rahm says:

    It is with sadness but also fond memories as I post this note offering our condolences to Dave’s passing. Our time together as Rangers on the Kootenai NF were a special time for me. Dave was the quiet informal leader of the Rangers Group and made sure that we got together prior to a Ranger- Staff meeting to hash out the Ranger’s consolidated positions on the issues for the upcoming meeting. This was a powerful part of our program management for the forest. If the truth were known, the really big decisions were likely made in the evening hours in the hotel rooms of one of the out of town rangers, (Usually Dave or Pritch’s room). It was always amazing how clear the thinking and solutions became as the evening wore on and the beer ran out. These gathers formed a bond between the management team that was likely one of the best in the Region
    Pauline and I send our prayers to you and the family that your sadness will in time be replaced with smiles as you gather and remember the life and times of Dave. Gary and Pauline Rahm

  • Todd and Pattie Cook says:

    Many heart felt prayers to Emily and family. Dave was a great man. My favorite memories are of him serving strawberry shortcakes at the park over the 4th of July.

  • Brian Vachowski East Helena, Montana says:

    Dear Emily and family,
    I worked for Dave from 1988-1993 as a staff assistant on the Nezperce. I showed up for work during the height of the 1988 fire campaign, so I was not introduced to my boss for a couple of months. When we finally did meet, I learned that he was a great supervisor, firm yet understanding, and served as a mentor not only for the wilderness and recreation programs in which I mostly worked, but for everything and everyone in the Forest Service. I remember him fondly. So sorry for your loss.

  • Jeri Carmichael says:

    Emily, Dave, Greg & family,
    Please know your in our thoughts and prayers.
    Dave love of the outdoors was such an inspiration to me growing up. (Cousin Jeri)

    Love always,
    Dave & Jeri Carmichael

  • Mike Cole says:

    To the Poncin family,

    My wife Anna and I extend our sincere condolences to all of you.

    I met Dave at a Forest Service training in Ogden, Utah in the spring of 1984 and we spent a lot of time together over those three weeks. Dave was a very friendly, approachable guy with a positive outlook on life – the kind of person that other people enjoyed spending time around, whether in the classroom or out in the field. As a young Forest Service employee, I certainly appreciated the fact that he treated me as an equal even though I was probably the youngest, least experienced person at that training. I will always remember his kindness towards me.

    When I moved to Hells Canyon NRA in the fall of 1984, I knew only one person in the entire region – Dave. Over the next dozen years, as I was passing through on trips between Lewiston and Pittsburg Landing, I would look him up whenever I stopped by the Grangeville office or I would see him at meetings or sometimes down on the Snake River. He was always the same – greeted me with a smile, always had time to talk, and was interested in how I was doing, no matter how long it had been since we had last spoken. It was people like Dave that made the world a better place and the Forest Service a better organization.

    Little did I imagine back in 1984 that I would someday have the privilege of working for his son on fire assignments! I last saw him at Lolo, Montana in 2013 when you both came to visit Greg during our assignment on the Lolo Creek fire and Dave was still the same man I remembered all those many years ago.

  • Jim Kalitowswki says:

    Dave was the IC on my first big fire, the North Hill Fire, in 1984. I was pretty low on the totem pole but whenever I ran into him in later years he always remembered me. I considered it a great honor to have been able to work with him. The firefighting community has lost one of the really good ones.

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