NEGAUNEE – Genevieve (Yoohs) Ponnikas, 84, a former resident of the Copper Country, passed away on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, from a brief illness and complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. Genevieve was under hospice care at Eastwood Nursing Center, where she had been a resident since May of this year. At the time of her peaceful passing, Genevieve was surrounded by her family who sang her off to Heaven.
Genevieve was born February 17, 1933, in Hancock, Michigan, the daughter of Irving and Ethel (Scholar) Yoohs. She attended Hancock and Houghton Public Schools and graduated from Hancock Central High in 1951. On August 8, 1953, she married her high school sweetheart, Walfred Ponnikas, in a double wedding ceremony with Genevieve’s sister Dorothy and Philip Dennis. While her husband was in the U.S. Navy, they lived in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon his discharge in 1956, they came back to Michigan and made their home in Coburntown Location (rural Hancock), where they raised 3 children, Linda, Brian and Lori.
Always a stay-at-home Mom, Genevieve’s home was open to the friends of her children and grandchildren. She became ‘Mom’ and ‘Gramma’, and finally even ‘Great Gramma’ to the many young people whose lives she touched. On many summer nights, at Genevieve’s invitation, all the neighborhood kids would flock to the Ponnikas house, and Gen and Wally would serve lemonade, popcorn and pizza after pizza after pizza to them all! Genevieve was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, and Methodist Youth Fellowship leader when her own children were young.
A woman of great personal faith in Jesus, Genevieve was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Hancock, and was an alto in the choir for many decades. She was a certified Methodist Lay Speaker and filled pulpits as a guest speaker in Methodist churches across the Copper Country. In the early 70’s, Genevieve ordered New Testament paperback Bibles by the cases and handed them out to everyone she came in contact with. She had her husband renovate a room in the upstairs of their home, and she started and hosted several Bible Studies and Prayer Groups in her ‘Prayer Room’. Years later, when she and Wally moved to Heritage Manor in Houghton, she began a weekly ‘Singspiration Group’, leading the participants in devotions and singing of hymns, praise and worship songs. Also while at Heritage Manor, Genevieve bought cases of basic harmonicas, and simplified many songs for beginners, teaching them to the residents. The group called themselves the ‘Harmoni-Cats’.
In the early 70’s, Genevieve audited a Music Theory Class at Suomi College and began composing music. She wrote songs of faith, writing not only the accompaniment to be played on her Methodist Church’s great pipe organ, but she also wrote the four choral parts. Her songs were sung by her Church’s choir, even when Genevieve was no longer a part of the choir.
When at the age of 52, a stroke left her husband Wally paralyzed and eventually wheelchair bound, Genevieve cared for him at home for almost 30 years. They lived with their daughter and son-in-law Linda and David Bimel more than 16 of those years.
Genevieve was preceded in death by her parents, her two brothers Robert ‘Buddy’ and Donald ‘Archie’ Yoohs, her son Brian in 1989, and her husband of 62+ years, Wally Ponnikas in January of 2016. She is survived by her two daughters and sons-in-law — Linda and David Bimel of Negaunee, and Lori and Rev. Gary Step of Hudsonville Michigan; five grandchildren — Jill (Brad) Seppala of Negaunee, Britton (Hannah) Bimel of Marquette, Ryder (Ashley) Step of Zeeland Michigan, Riley (Sasha) Step of Wyoming Michigan, and Rebecca Genevieve Step (fiancé Matthew Smith) of Hudsonville Michigan; 11 great grandchildren — Jacob, Alexandra, Caleb, Genevieve and Chloe Seppala of Negaunee; Isaac and Ezra Bimel of Marquette; Macade and Clara Eve Step of Zeeland; Riven and Oakley Step of Wyoming; and honorary great-granddaughter Stefanee Carlisle of Negaunee. She is also survived by her two sisters Dorothy Dennis of Gainesville, FL, and Carol Kirkish of Houghton; her brother-in-law Doug Ponnikas and his wife Laura of Coburntown, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. In addition to her biological children, grand- and great grandchildren, Genevieve leaves behind many other honorary children, grand- and great-grandchildren, who, although not blood, were loved and cherished by her. You know who you are.
O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home in Hancock is handling the arrangements. Genevieve’s funeral service will be held at noon on Saturday, August 26 at the First United Methodist Church of Hancock. Visitation and viewing will be at 11:00 am before the service, with a luncheon hosted by the Methodist Ladies following the service. She will be buried at Hancock’s Lakeside Cemetery, between her husband Wally and their son Brian. Please share your memories of Genevieve with her family online.