01/03/2017 11:20AM

Mary Jo Pons, Country Life Farm matriarch, dead at 87

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Mary Jo Pons, matriarch of Maryland’s Country Life Farm, died Jan. 2 at Bright View Assisted Living in Bel Air, Md. She was 87.

A native of Baltimore, Pons spent her entire life living in her home state of Maryland.

"I only ever moved once," she told the Baltimore Sun in 2011. "And it was to live [at Country Life] with Joe Pons."

Pons had a lengthy career in local radio, serving as a WBAL Radio Call-for-Action volunteer, hosting radio broadcasts of fashion shows, and hosting a classical music broadcast from Hartford Community College. She served as executive director of the Radio Reading Network of Maryland for two decades, and found the organization a home at the Maryland School for the Blind.

Mary Jo married Joe Pons in 1950. The following year, upon the death of father Adolphe Pons, his sons John and Joe Pons inherited Country Life, which Adolphe Pons had founded in 1933. John Pons served as two-time president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, while Joe Pons built Country Life’s reputation by bringing stallions such as Saggy, sire of classic winner Carry Back, to stand at the nursery.

Joe and Mary Jo Pons had five children, and today, sons Josh and Mike run Country Life and Merryland, the latter property added in 2001. The two continued their father’s work by bringing stallions such as Malibu Moon to stand in Maryland. Malibu Moone sired champion Declan’s Moon in his second crop at Country Life and subsequently moved to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, where he has become a perennial leading sire. The Pons brothers were also at the helm when two-time Horse of the Year Cigar was foaled at Country Life in 1990.

Mary Jo Pons was predeceased, in 2005, by her husband. She is survived by their five children, Norah, Andrew, Josh, Mike, and Alice; and six grandchildren, Karianna Brace, Philip, Elizabeth, Josh, David, and August Pons.

A memorial celebration for Mary Jo Pons is planned for April 9 at Country Life, the eve of her birth date. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Radio Reading Network of Maryland.