Justine  Poniktera

Obituary of Justine Bodley Poniktera

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Justine Bodley (Richardson) Poniktera, 80, of Utica, NY passed away peacefully, at home, Thursday, February 15, 2024.  With family by her side, her passing was as beautiful and peaceful as anyone could have hoped for her. The family wishes to extend their eternal gratitude to Hospice staff members Greg, Chris, Crystal, Kim and Wally. The bedside spiritual support provided by Wally gave her the complete comfort to know that it was time, having had pancreatic cancer stage 4 diagnosed Christmas Eve of 2022. She had closure with all her closest family the night before when she recited her bedtime prayer taught by her mother:

"Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

May I be good while I'm awake, and 

God bless each step I take, Amen. Oh!" she said, almost forgetting what she was taught. 

"And God bless Debra, Bill and John, Leigh and Alex, Drew, Cody, Avery and Sam;

And bless Eamon and the bun in the oven too; bless Dave and 

god bless my sisters and brother,

Kathy, Steve, Alice, Terrie, Lane, Janice, Sharon, Amy and all their children 

and grandchildren too." 

She was truly blessed in this life and she never forgot to say so all through her journey.

In addition to the Hospice team, the family extends the same gratitude to her primary physician Dr. Talarico along with colleagues Susan and Taylor whom all gave her from the get-go the optimistic outlook that she WOULD be one of the 10% with pancreatic cancer to have more than just a few months to prepare.  And she indeed was one of the 10% as she was blessed with fourteen months that included the first birthday with her Great-Grandson, Eamon.  

Not to be remiss, the family also sends their sincere thank you's for the amazing and virtal roles played by her oncology teammates at Upstate Medical in Verona including (but NOT limited to!) Annie, Dr. Graziano and NP Laura as well as the ever-smiling staff from intake to chemo treatments to check out. 

From top to bottom in both medical practices we experienced caring people that allowed our family to be with her as long as anyone could have hoped for. So know this: Justine found that along with her cancer she was given a specific gift:  the gift of time to connect and share her life's stories and wisdom with her close family members and additionally, the ability to reach out to those from her past which led to deeper connections as well as some reconnections that resulted in the outpouring of cards, flowers, calls and the overall support that completed her 'prescription' and gave her true joy throughout her given time.

Justine (Anna) was the first-born to parents John Justice Bodley and Roberta (Byron) Bodley on March 17th, 1943 at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. Her early school years were in Swarthmore PA followed by the birth of her three siblings (Kathy, Alice and Lane) and the family's permanent move back to her father's hometown of Doylestown, PA.  Justine and her three siblings have remained close throughout their lives and these relationships were her foundation. She has always credited her parents for providing a loving home with a strong foundation built on faith coupled with life morals of which she undeniably passed on to her two children, Debra (Utica) and John (Syracuse); her four grandchildren Alexandra (husband Drew, Boston), Cody (Albany), Avery (Rochester), Samuel (Geneseo) AND her first great-grandson Eamon, born to Alex and Drew Cullum.  

Her wishes were for her family to know the 'life lessons' her parents instilled so that they will be carried forward.

From her mother Roberta she was raised to value education: 'With education nothing can be taken away from you; continue to be a student throughout life'. Regarding faith her mother illustrated all world religions lead to their God in this way: holding up a linen napkin, her mother would say - while creating a napkin-mountain by pinching it from the the center point:  'Justine my Dear, all over the world, religions share a God at the top of the same mountain. Sometimes it's different names for whom we call God.  Some are climbing up to find Mohammad, or Buddha or like us,God. Some of us take the path up one side of the mountain, others find another. There's never just one path."

From her Father 'Jus' the simple yet vitally important mantras ingrained were:

"Honesty Is the Best Policy", "Patience Is a Virtue" and to remember to never, ever give up: "Keep the Flag Flying!".   Justine, named to honor her father's middle name Justice, was taught by him to always treat others with respect as he always illustrated fairness in his work place just as he did at home.  He was a champion of Justice and her wishes were to relay to her family and friends to always practice with hope that living a patient, honest life and working to see those around us are protected by Justice, we will know we have lived as we are intended to and make the world a little bit better.  She did just that.  She made all of our world a better place. 

After graduating Central Bucks West in Doylestown she attended Bucknell University, studying Sociology and was a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority.  Her present reconnection with a few of her 'sisters' during CoVid resulted in monthly ZOOM sessions and again, this was continued all through her last year.  Her roomate Patricia (Priester) McKeon has been a very familiar name to all her family members.  Justine was worried right up to the end that someone else in the ZOOM group had to learn how to set up and keep the meetings going!  She was very savvy with computers, determined to keep on top of the latest app in order to stay in touch with her grandchildren! 

On September 5, 1964 she married (Charles) David ('Dave") Richardson. In short order they welcomed their first born Debra Lynn Richardson into the world and within 6 months they drove 1500 miles in a Corvair (of which 1200 were completely dirt road called the "Al-Can Highway") they arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska and reported to Ft. Wainwright. Dave completed his three years of service in the Corps of Engineers and they then returned to the lower 48 for his job awaiting in New Jersey. Justine then welcomed her son, John David Richardson into the world. It was love at first sight again!

Justine was proudly a stay-at-home mother for the next 15 years. In the year 1971 due to Dave's first promotion with Engelhard, the family moved to Camden New York where she enjoyed the next 7 years and recalls these years as some of the happiest in her motherhood years. After creating the yard the entire neighborhood were magnets to, she dove into her first 'career' as a 'Professional Volunteer'.  In Camden NY she was a Girl Scout leader, 4-H leader, Cub Scout Den mother, served two years as the 'Meals on Wheels' coordinator, was one of the main organizers that launched the first Nursery School program in town and later served on the Board for 4 years. She was an active member for three years with the 'Newcomers Club' (Welcome Wagon) and President for a fourth year. Working with the Oneida County Narcotics Council Justine helped to open and supervise the Teen Coffee House. Not to be bored, she lastly co-founded the Camden Carriage House Museum before moving back to New Jersey.  Lifetime friendships were forged in Camden with the 'Gang' consisting of the Mutch's, Lundrigan's and the Gordon's. It was through the Gordon's and a trip to their 'camp' in Forestport NY that she and Dave found and purchased their summer house on Kayuta Lake in 1976. For years she packed the whole family up for their 5 hour trip Friday night back north to the lake house, returning late Sunday to unpack it all and get ready for Monday work and school schedules.  Some of the happiest childhood memories for her family were made by 'goin' to camp'. She always was sure we had plenty of peanut butter crackers and butterscotch Krimpets to snack on on the way!  

It needs to be mentioned that about the same time she moved to Camden NY the Bodley family began their annual Thanksgiving gatherings with all of her siblings and their growing families at her parents retirement farm in Potter County PA. The bonds were made only stronger in the family as this continued for over 23 years.  

The year 1978 brought another promotion for her husband and the family returned to New Jersey making home in Clinton, Hunterdon County.  Once her son entered High School and her daughter left for college Justine was determined to continue her professional education and enrolled at Trenton State College.  Over the course of a few years she completed her Bachelor's in Sociology (Summa Cum Laude), her Master's in Counseling with Certificates in Gerontology and was inducted into the Sigma Phi Omega, a National Gerontological Honor Society while all the while working as Program Manager of the 'Friendly Visitors & Respite Care Program' based in Quakertown NJ.  Any spare time was spent serving on the Health and Human Services  Advisory Council, the Hunterdon County Mental Health Committee and acting as an Adjunct Instructor at Trenton State.

After completing her studies, Justine found herself an 'empty-nester', divorcing, and at the beginning of what was to be the next 'chapter' as a paid professional within her self-described 'destined vocation' of working with seniors. Her close relationship with her Grandmother and her time spent with 'Gammy' in Ocean City NJ during the summer as a teenager made a strong impression on her and where she felt her calling to work with seniors came from. Her grandmother assisted and visited homebound seniors nearby, always bringing Justine along where she developed the empathy of aging and also the respect of elders and their life stories. 

Her career until retirement in 1998 included Senior Center Supervisor for the Office of the Aging in Flemington, NJ, Coordinator for the Easter Seals Older Adult Counseling Program where she trained, managed and coordinated all staff counselors as advocates for seniors regarding their healthcare as well as facilitating the Alzheimer's Caregivers Support Group and Post Polio Group counseling. sessions.  Her final position was Director of Admissions at Pennswood Village Retirement Community in Newton, PA.  This eventually became her professional employment as Justine may have told you, fate introduced her to her future husband John Poniktera at her very first meeting, her very first day. Ten years later they married and chose early retirement. John was her loving husband and very best friend until his too-soon passing on August 28th, 2013.

Justine and John moved to the Kayuta Lake house after retiring spending winters in Ocala Florida. Much of their married life was spent traveling the United States. First in an RV and later on John's Honda Goldwing itineraries  included the Virginia Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, Key West, Nova Scotia, multiple western National Parks including Glacier and Yellowstone Parks after journeying through the Badlands. These were some of Justine's happiest days knowing her children were on their way starting their own families and that they always returned to the Lake house for time with the grandchildren. She and John became very active within the Boonville Methodist Church community which led to Justine finding once again a 'Gang' of friends that she became close to and spoke with right up until her last days. 

After the loss of John she lived 4 years on Kayuta Lake remaining active within the Boonville Methodist Church community as usher and serving on multiple committees .  She also took up volunteering at the Black River Canal Museum in Boonville.  When her only year round neighbors moved, and winters leading to being 'housebound' Justine sold the camp back to her first husband Dave Richardson and moved to Utica, close to her daughter for more opportunities to be social.  She and Dave shared a wonderful relationship as he had moved to Utica from New Jersey after a second divorce to be closer to both of their children.   

Not slowing down Justine first volunteered to tutor young people studying for their GED through the Rescue Center. Next she volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity Restore shop.  She joined the gym at the Parkway Recreation Center partaking in their Yoga, Matter of Balance and Boom fitness classes.  She enrolled for multiple classes over 4 semesters under the Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement at SUNY IT . Of all her classes, she was most proud of her paintings that she prolifically began producing!  Then CoVid arrived, however she still found herself volunteering for the Friendly Calls program checking in on the homebound elders in the Utica community. 

In a Parkway newsletter Justine was quoted as saying, "I have always liked working with people, especially older adults as I did during my career. I feel I have had a truly fortunate life and would like to give back and help others as I find it fulfilling".  In a Birthday card saved from her granddaughter Alexandra it perhaps is best said about how Justine lived her life.

"The strongest women aren't always the loudest ones or the ones in the spotlight.  Sometimes, they're the ones who quietly do good behind the scenes . . . making a difference through KINDNESS AND LOVE."

Following Justine's wishes, no services will take place in Utica. The family will gather privately next month at the  Doylestown Cemetery, in Doylestown, PA where she will rest next to John and near to her parents. 

We leave you with one of her favorite poems:

We shall not cease from exploration.

And the end of all our exploring

                    Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

  -T.S. Eliot


     Those wishing to donate in Justine’s memory, please consider supporting our Hospice so that they may continue to serve our community.  They were the angels who guided both Justine and family for her passing.  Donations can be sent to:  Hospice and Palliative Care  4277 Middle Settlement Road, New Hartford, NY. 13413.

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Justine  Poniktera

In Loving Memory

Justine Poniktera

1943 - 2024

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