NORMAN — When news spread Nov. 26 that Cody Ponder’s 28-month battle with esophageal cancer had ended, the Norman community seemed to grieve collectively.
Social media sites like Facebook were flooded with comments about Ponder, something that Kris Glenn, Ponder’s close friend, was not surprised by.
“I have been amazed, yet not surprised, about how many people his death has impacted, but that is a tribute to how he lived,” Glenn said.
Shortly after Ponder’s death, Glenn said he spent at least two days telling people via phone, text, email and social media that Ponder loved them.
“And that is not just me saying that. He absolutely loved people, and people loved him,” Glenn said.
Prior to his death, Ponder, 35, was the assistant transportation director for CART. Glenn worked with Ponder at CART for five years.
“I lost a best friend and someone I consider a brother, but the Norman community lost so much more. Cody was a champion of public transportation in his role at CART,” Glenn said. “He was a fixture in the nonprofit community helping people who needed it most and a friend to everyone who knew him.
“Cody was a better version of all of us, as he went out of his way to make people feel good about themselves. If you knew Cody, then he knew your birthday, your dog’s name and asked about your great-aunt because he truly cared about people, loved people and loved life.”
Ponder’s memorial has been set for 10 a.m. Saturday, on his birthday, at Journey Church, 3801 Journey Parkway in Norman, under the care of Primrose Funeral Service. Those attending are asked to wear periwinkle in honor of the continuing fight against esophageal cancer.
“I called Cody one day after I knew there were no more treatment options, and I just lost it. I had not done that in front of him because I wanted to be strong for him, but that day was different,” Glenn said. “I cried and cried to him, telling him how sorry I was, and in true Cody fashion, he starts comforting me.
“Here he is dying, and he is consoling me, but that was Cody. That’s who he was, and that’s what his legacy will be.”
Ponder’s work in the community was noticed most at United Way of Norman.
“He volunteered on one of our impact councils for several years and has been on the board. Over time, he became a great friend of mine. He was a great volunteer and such a wonderful person. We will never forget his smile and how he inspired us in so many ways,” said Renee O’Leary, director of community impact at United Way of Norman.
Ponder was born to Kenton Ponder and Danell Vernon Bray on Dec. 21, 1977, in Healdton. Ponder grew up in the towns of Lone Grove and Wilson. He graduated from Lone Grove High School in 1996.
Ponder was a member of the 2011 Leadership Norman Class. He also found time to serve on the boards of Full Circle Adult Day Care, Norman’s Social and Voluntary Services committee, United Way and American Red Cross’ Heart of Oklahoma chapter.
Ponder leaves behind his wife of 15 years, Johnnie-Margaret McConnell and four-legged daughter, Greta Mae Ponder; mother and father, Danell and Danny Bray; mother-in-law, Jane McConnell; mom, Lisa Portwood; father-in-law, Tom McConnell; grandmothers Pat Halstead and husband Robert and Johnnie Spears; brothers Corey Ponder and wife Michelle, Sheppard McConnell, Dusty Bray and wife Desiree and Kris Glenn and wife Casey; sisters Dachelle McClendon and husband Ivron and Jenn Doughty and husband John; godchildren Paige Portwood and Rowan Doughty; nieces Mikayla and Charlotte Ponder; nephews Cole Ponder and Dakota and Slade Bray; dearest friend, Cory Cross; seven beloved Vernon family aunts and uncles, along with their extended families; five McConnell-Kittrell family aunts and uncles and children and members of the Ponder family.
The family has established an endowed fund with the OU Foundation to benefit the OU Stephenson Cancer Center’s Patient Emergency Services Fund.
Payments will be accepted online at oumedicine.
com/cancer/Cody or by check, payable to the OU Foundation, to Stephenson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0901.
Donors are asked to include Ponder’s name in the comments section of the online giving page or on checks.
“The thing that I’d say about Cody is that he wasn’t a person who re-evaluated his life and his priorities and became a really good person as a result of cancer,” said Kristin Collins, president of United Way of Norman. “Cody was always a really great person who remained amazingly positive and loving, even through cancer. We were blessed to have some of Cody’s time here at United Way and are the better for it.”
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