Colleagues remember contributions of Fred Ponschok

By: 

Leader staff

A former Shawano Common Council member is being remembered as a “class act” by teachers, city officials and friends.

Fred Ponschok, 89, Appleton, formerly of Shawano, died on Dec. 2.

Fred Beyer, Shawano, a former Shawano School District technology education teacher, said that Ponschok was “always civic-minded.”

That civic-minded attitude was reflected in his service in the U.S. Army from 1951-53, tenure on the Shawano City council from 2002-2016, and leadership in Junior Achievement of Shawano County, Shawano Area Veterans, Inc, Protect Out Wolf River Shawano, Sacred Heart School Board and Shawano American Legion Post 117. He was also a member of Wisconsin Retired Educators Association as well as the Wisconsin Resource Protection Council.

“Fred was on the Police and Fire Commission when I was chief of police. He was a class act. He was always supportive of the city and law enforcement. As a chief, I appreciated Fred’s input and support. He was genuine. You could sit down and talk with Fred and he’d listen and he’d ask some good questions and made some tough decisions in his career with the city,” Shawano Mayor Ed Whealon said.

“I had the highest regard for Fred. Even after he retired from the council, I’d run into him and we’d sit and talk. I always appreciated him and his input. He’ll be missed,” Whealon added.

Tony Zielinski, chairman of Shawano’s police and fire commission, echoed Whealon’s sentiments. “Fred was a dear friend, not only to me but also to the city and Shawano County. His contributions are beyond what anybody could ever put in writing given his accomplishments. He was a great friend of myself and the community. He had a great instinct for compromise and for action that was beneficial to everybody involved. He’s dearly going to be missed.”

Ponschok received the Shawano Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2003; Shawano Area Community Foundation Volunteer of the Year 2004; United Way Distinguished Service Award 1989-1991 and the Junior Achievement Bronze Leadership Award in 1990.

Former Alderman Woody Davis served with Ponschok on the Common Council together for a number of years, after previously working together at the Shawano School District.

“He’s been a good friend for a long time and I worked with him at school. He was really involved with school and he did an awful lot of stuff for the kids. Just a wonderful man. (On the council) Fred was involved with everything that had to do with the city and he was an excellent person. They can’t get any better than him. We talked with each other a lot and he’s always been a good person and we’ll miss him,” Davis said.

Beyer, who worked with Ponschok at Shawano Community High School, called him a mentor who helped transform vocational education.

“When we started—you would think of ‘wood shop,’ but today there is a lot more diversity, a smorgasbord of career opportunity for students,” Beyer said. He said Ponschok was instrumental in developing the school’s vocational programs.

“He always wanted to take the leading edge,” Beyer said. “And no matter what his position, he was going to help kids.”

In April 2016, Alderwoman Lisa Hoffman penned a letter to the editor thanking the man whose council seat she went on to fill.

“I would like to thank Fred for his decades of dedicated service to the Shawano community. Not only has he served on the Common Council for 17 years, but he has also served in our school district, worked with our youth and our veterans, and chaired a number of committees. His influence has been felt far beyond the council chambers,” Hoffman wrote. “Fred, your legacy is one of commitment and love, and I promise you could never be forgotten.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Dec. 10, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Shawano. Military honors will be conducted by the Shawano American Legion Post 117. Inurnment will be in Sacred Heart Mausoleum. Visitation will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Dec. 9 at Swedberg Funeral Home in Shawano and again at the church on Monday from 10 a.m. until the time of the service. In lieu of flowers a memorial fund in Ponschok’s name is being established.

A complete obituary can be found in the Dec. 5 Shawano Leader and at http://www.swedbergfuneralhome.com/obituary/fred-ponschok.