May 27, 1943 – October 24, 2019

Mary Helen Ponte

Mary Helen (Wright) Ponte passed away at home while receiving hospice care at the Ponte Ranch at Forth Crossing in the early hours of Thursday morning, Oct. 24, 2019, after spending the prior evening surrounded by family and friends. Mary Helen’s life-long focus on family and faith was reflected in her final days as her family shared stories, laughter and love at her bedside, and her church family sang beautiful hymns and said prayers to prepare heaven to receive one of its most ardent angels.

Born at Fort Sam Houston, a U.S. Army post in San Antonio, Texas, on May 27, 1943, Mary Helen was the first of 10 children born to Army Sergeant, C.B. Wright and Mary Lou Wright. Mary Helen spent her early childhood in Crockett, Texas. In 1957, when Mary Helen was 14 years old, the family moved to Dallas. She started her first job at the Piccadilly Cafeteria, shortly after moving there. She worked part-time during her school years and throughout the summers. She selflessly sacrificed so much for all of her younger siblings. She set the pace for them. Her siblings all started their first jobs at 16, and also contributed to the household budget. Mary Helen spent many of her young adult years helping her parents care for her special sister, Debbie.

Mary Helen graduated from Kimball High School in 1961, followed by Draughon’s Business School, which she used to launch her professional career as an administrative secretary. Her first job out of college was for Lone Star Gas in Dallas, and then she transitioned to faith-based ministries, including Southwest Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and Northwest Baptist Convention in Portland, Ore., a city that captured and held a part of her heart for the rest of her life. Later, she returned to Texas to work at Dallas Baptist Foundation.

On a trip to visit her sister, Janie (Wright) Stephens, in Northern California in 1984, Mary Helen met and fell in love with her California cowboy, Ronald Raymond Ponte, while on a moonlit horseback ride.

They married on Dec. 9, 1985. She easily assumed the role of “bonus mom” to Mary Jean (Ponte) Allan (a “bonus” that came with Ron). Mary Helen and Ron enjoyed watching westerns and taking drives in the countryside. They both cherished their memories and photos from their Alaskan cruise in 2000. As Ron’s multiple sclerosis worsened, Mary Helen was both a wife and a committed caregiver; her diligence and dedication added years to Ron’s life.

While living on the Ponte Ranch, Mary Helen resumed her secretarial work in private law offices, including a few years for Mora Murphy in Angels Camp, and the majority of her Calaveras career for Bruce Calderwood, in Murphys.

Mary Helen was an active Baptist throughout her life, leading many Sunday school classes in her tenure.

Her final house of worship was at the Grace Fellowship Church in San Andreas, where she loved to sing gospel songs in her distinctive soprano voice.

She was a life-long blood donor (over eight gallons!) and an avid volunteer for the Calaveras County Library, a demonstration of her love of people and the community. Her hobbies included counted cross stitch, photography, collecting unique and vintage postcards, reading and keeping up with her handwritten correspondence that she enclosed in her custom, handmade envelopes made from repurposed calendar pages. She loved receiving Christmas cards and post cards from family and friends.

She helped raise the writing scores for several classes of fourth graders by exchanging pen-pal notes with each of them, promoting her love of writing. She instilled her love of reading in multiple nieces and nephews by taking them to the library when they were young.

She is survived by her “bonus daughter,” Mary Jean Allan of El Dorado Hills, Calif.; sisters, Shirley Lewallyn and Frances Kulas; and brothers, Milton, Elwood, James, Jimmy and C.B., Jr. Wright of the great state of Texas; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and more relatives.

She is preceded in death by her husband, Ronald Ponte; parents, Mary Lou and C.B.; sisters, Janie Stephens, of Angels Camp, and Debbie Wright, of Dallas.

A Celebration of life is planned for Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Grace Fellowship Church in San Andreas at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you make a donation in Mary Helen’s honor to your local library, donate blood at your local blood bank, or perhaps less painfully, mail a postcard the next time you travel.

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