William F. “Bill” Pontius was so much more than a physician in his 81 years.
His widow, Mollie Pontius, described her husband as “a wit, an intellect, a man for all seasons.”
Pontius, who passed away September 30 from a heart problem, packed many past-times into his life: Navy veteran, surgeon, radiologist, photographer, airplane pilot and yachtsman.
“There are so many grand stories,” Mollie Pontius said. “We lived life and enjoyed every moment. We were blessed.”
Pontius moved to Ocean Springs in 1976 with his first wife, Anita Martin Pontius. The doctor and Mollie Pontius married in 1990, four years after his first wife passed away.
He had graduated from medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, first practicing general medicine in Canton, Mississippi, and also performing surgery.
He joined the staff of the old Howard Memorial Hospital in Biloxi after completing a residency in radiology. He served as director and chief of radiology, and at least two stints as chief of staff, after the hospital relocated downtown and became Biloxi Regional Medical Center.
Pontius retired in 2001.
“He really became a little legend,” Mollie Pontius said. “The one thing he missed about medicine was his patients and his practice. The one thing he did not miss was the business.”
The couple took off on a grand adventure when he retired, sailing their 50-foot trawler, the Salt Ayre, for two years from Florida up the Atlantic coast.
“To pull out of our backyard and start out on a journey,” his wife said, “that was quite an experience.”
Her husband was an accomplished photographer, with his work appearing numerous times on the cover of the Mississippi State Medical Association Journal. His photography often combined radiology and photography.
Pontius was perhaps the only person to serve, at different times, as commodore of both the Biloxi and Ocean Springs yacht clubs.
He and his wife rode out Hurricane Katrina in their home on the Ocean Springs harbor, where they climbed to the second floor when water invaded the house.
They wound up with 14 sailboats in their yard, she said. They eventually rebuilt on a lot nearby.
The two also sat down a few years back and wrote out their obituaries. Bill Pontius kept his to the key milestones in his life, choosing not to brag about his many accomplishments.
He had a big saying he wanted his wife to remember if he passed away first, that he hoped would help her stay strong: “Say not in grief, ‘He is no more.’ Say in thankfulness, ‘He was.’ ”