Stephen Joseph Pontoski

Age 73


Stephen Joseph Pontoski, of Topeka, Kansas, died with family by his side on the morning of Tuesday, January 30, 2024. Stephen succumbed to a short illness while under the care of friends and colleagues at Topeka’s Stormont Vail Hospital, where, during retirement, he volunteered his nursing expertise to patients until his death. He was 73.

Born January 14, 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stephen was the son of Stanley and Mary (née Dwyer) Pontoski. Years after his mother’s early death, his stepmother was Patricia (née Gross) Pontoski.

Stephen attended St. Luke the Evangelist elementary school, and after graduating from Bishop McDevitt High School in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Stephen prepared for a life of service by earning a nursing degree from Gwynedd Mercy College. With his compassionate heart and capable hands, Stephen ultimately became head of hemodialysis nursing at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. After relocating to Kansas, he was one of few pediatric hospice nurses in the state.

Stephen was a consummate explorer, both of human souls and the places they inhabit. He mentored foreign students and advocated for neglected children. He accompanied a hospice patient to her home in the UK, enabling her to say a final goodbye to her family. He witnessed the wonder of the Grand Canyon and traversed the Great Wall of China. He climbed the soaring steps of Nepalese monasteries and played with tigers in Thailand. He treasured the serenity of Hawaiian waterfalls, quiet woods, starry nights of the Canadian sky, and any kind of garden. He personally built a backyard Shangri-La, replete with waterfalls and a fireplace made from scrap material.

Curious about the human experience in its many forms, Stephen loved the arts: museums, musicals, and film. He devoured books and documentaries. He acted, sang, and danced in plays. His humor and wit inspired mirth in others.
He put people at ease and fostered a sense of peace. He loved animals and nature, gave freely, and valued his friendships. Fiercely loyal, Stephen’s love of family was always paramount. He travelled the continent forging and maintaining relationships between members of his extended family.

Stephen is loved and survived by brother Paul and his wife Arlene (née Palumbo) Pontoski, brother Tom and his wife Sue (née Carr) Pontoski, sister Thérèse-Marie (née Pontoski) and Bill Harkey, brother Michael and wife Diane (née Merini) Pontoski, brother Joseph and wife Betty (née Costa) Pontoski, and sister Kathleen (née Pontoski) and husband John Vrijmoet, and brother/friend Randy Temple. Stephen is also celebrated by his fourteen nieces and nephews, and eight grandnieces and grandnephews.

A private inurnment and celebration of Stephen’s life will be held at a later date.


No services have been announced.