Longtime mayor of Doniphan passes away

DONIPHAN, MO (KAIT) – The community of Doniphan is mourning the loss of one of its longtime leaders.

Mayor Larry Ponder died Thursday evening after struggling with a number of health issues.

Ponder had served as mayor since 1981, and those who knew him best say that whoever succeeds him has to live up to his legacy.

Flags flew at half-staff Friday in front of Doniphan City Hall, where Ponder came to work for 31 years.

"He loved the city. He loved the job," said Christopher Miller. "He wanted to be mayor until the day he died, and I'm certainly glad he got his wish."

Miller became the Doniphan city attorney the year after Ponder took office.

"People thought of him as the city government," Miller said. "If you a question, you went to him. It was as simple as that."

Miller says, of all the officials he has worked with, Ponder was the most hands-on leader.

He says the mayor expanded the city budget to more than $2 million during his tenure and secured numerous grants to bring in new amenities, like the River Front Park redevelopment.

Miller says the mayor even saved the citizens an untold amount of money by taking on new responsibilities.

"He would mow grass just like a street department worker and in effect free up a worker for the entire summer," he added. "He'd mow grass every day of the week, it seemed like. I mean, you never saw during the summer except when he was on a riding lawn mower or in his office."

Ponder also dedicated his career to teaching at the Doniphan School District, and his students knew his enthusiasm for the outdoors well.

"He always kept in the corner of his chalkboard, he kept a date, and he would count down the number of days to deer season," said Mark Rodgers, who learned Missouri history from Ponder. "That was his favorite time of the year."

Rodgers now serves as the city's police chief but has worked for Mayor Ponder since 1983.

He says business will go on as usual, and that is what his old boss would have wanted.

"Whoever the next mayor is will have some big shoes to fill," Rodgers said, "big shoes to fill."

Terry Cooper, the president of the Doniphan board of aldermen, will serve out the rest of Ponder's term.

The mayor's son, Craig, spoke off-camera Friday, saying what his dad loved the most were his family, his community and his cabin, in that order.

The family will hold a visitation Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Edwards Funeral Home, located at 606 Walnut Street in Doniphan.

The funeral service will follow Monday at 10 a.m. at the funeral home.

To read the full obituary for Mayor Larry Ponder, follow this link.

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