Country Life's Andrew Pons Passes Away

Andrew M. Pons | Courtesy of Country Life Farm

by Josh Pons

Andrew MacNamara Pons, who managed his family's Country Life Farm in Maryland during the 1970s, died on Tuesday evening, Jan. 2, following complications from cardiac arrest five days earlier. He was 70 years old.

Born in Baltimore on May 31, 1953, he was the oldest son of Joseph and Mary Jo Pons. He grew up working with horses at Country Life, the oldest Thoroughbred farm in the state, established in 1933 by Pons' grandfather, Adolphe.

Fresh out of high school, Pons began work as an assistant for Hall of Fame horse trainer Henry S. Clark at Delaware Park. He interrupted his own career as a trainer when called back to guide Country Life through difficult times. His equine experience included a term in the stallion division of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, where he met Marva Jones. The couple were married at Country Life in 1986.

With the support of family in 1991, Pons enrolled in a 28-day, in-patient treatment course at Ashley Addiction Center in Havre de Grace, Md. Thereupon, he determined to finish college and persevered through 10 years of night school to graduate with a Master of Science Human Services Administration degree from the University of Baltimore in 2002. He would later quip: “I finished my sophomore year of college 27 years after my freshman year.”

As the son of a recovering father in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, Pons faced the disease of alcoholism with wry humor: “If I'm carrying a gene for addiction, then I must also be carrying a gene for recovery.” He put that gene to good use, became a counselor at Ashley, then relocated to Chestertown to live on Marva's family farm, Belle Grove, on Langford Creek in Kent County.  He was named clinical director of the A. F. Whitsett Center in Chestertown, a vital facility for those suffering from substance use disorder.

An active, outdoors life he lived right to the end. He was playing pickleball with Chestertown pals at the Y when he collapsed. He was admitted to the Mr. and Mrs. Harry W. Lunger Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the Christiana Care Hospital, adjacent to Delaware Park Racetrack.

“How appropriate,” said younger brother Josh. “The Lungers owned Christiana Stable, based at Delaware Park. That's where Andrew worked for Mr. Clark, who was the first to truly recognize what a fine young horseman he was.”

“I've known him since grade school,” said a Bel Air AA member. “He gave up a life with horses–something he loved–to spend his life helping other alcoholics. That's a powerful statement of who he was. That's what stands out about him as a man. That's what we'll remember. That he helped others.”

Pons is survived by his wife of 38 years, Marva, his stepdaughter Karianna Johnson (Tom) Brace, granddaughters Ellie and Minna; his siblings Norah Pons, Josh (Ellen) Pons, Mike (Lisa) Pons, and Alice Pons; Marva's siblings BJ Jones, Keith (Nancy) Jones, Jonathan (Beverly) Jones and Steven (Caroline) Jones. Nieces and nephews: Tess Jones, Marva Kumpf, Ben Jones, Lindsay (Matt) Diehl, Charlotte Jones, Christopher Jones, Alexander Jones, Philip (Lindsay) Pons, Elizabeth (Garrett) Forsberg, Josh (Shelby) Pons, Dave (Maggie Clough) Pons, and August (Hayley) Pons.

Remembrances of life are in the planning stages for late spring, one at Belle Grove and another at Country Life. Please consider a donation to a favorite cause of his: The Mann House, Inc., 14 Williams Street, Bel Air, Maryland 21014, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit recovery residence where he often attended AA meetings. A link to his obituary can be found here.

Pons will forever be remembered for his impact on the lives of others. Recalled his youngest brother Mike: “If you asked Andy how he was doing, without fail, he would remind you, 'It's a good life, ain't it?'”

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