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Onie Ponder, Florida's oldest resident, dies in Ocala at 112

MIAMI — Onie Ponder, Florida's oldest resident and one of the oldest people in the world, has died, her son said Saturday. She was 112.

Ponder died Friday morning at an Ocala hospice after a brief bout with pneumonia, said Cars­well Ponder, 74, of Ocala.

According to the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, Onie Ponder had been the oldest person in Florida and one of the 25 oldest people in the world. She was one of 1,000 subjects in the New England Study of Centenarians, conducted since 1994 by Boston University's College of Medicine.

"The good Lord had something to do with it. He treats me pretty well," Ponder told the Ocala Star-Banner at her birthday party in September.

"I never thought of age, even when I was in my 60s and 70s," she told the newspaper.

Ponder had stayed active and healthy all her life, her son said.

She would tell stories about her childhood in Ocala, when all the families on her street put up fences in their yards to keep children out of the cows' way, he said.

"They used to have cattle drives down the center of town. There were dirt roads, and everybody walked most everywhere," Carswell Ponder said. "She attributed a lot of her longevity to that, all that walking."

She could talk about the sinking of the Titanic and the Hindenberg disaster and about listening to President Woodrow Wilson address the 1916 graduating class at West Point. She recalled voting in 1920 when women were first allowed to cast ballots and seeing the first automobile drive through Ocala.

"All the things through history in the last century, she remembered," her son said. "Her mind was so sharp, she could go way back to her early childhood. She took it all in."

Ponder was born Sept. 3, 1898, in Ocala. She lived most of her life in her hometown, though she attended high school in North Carolina and spent a short time working as a bookkeeper in Boston.

She married bookkeeper Lester William Ponder in 1928 in Ocala. He died in 1958, and Ponder long outlived her seven siblings, her son said.

The homemaker always maintained a positive outlook and a curiosity about the world, Cars­well Ponder said.

She was a devout Roman Catholic and went to Mass every Sunday. She took cruises and traveled to Europe and Canada. She liked to read and listened to books on tape after her eyesight deteriorated.

"She just tried to enjoy each day as it came," her son said.

Ponder also is survived by another son, Phil Ponder, 77, of Nashville.

Onie Ponder, Florida's oldest resident, dies in Ocala at 112 01/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 10:10pm]

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