EDITOR'S NOTE: Third in a series
By RICHARD DYMOND
MANATEE -- Terry Farrell was a firefighter who died Sept. 11, 2001 when Tower Two collapsed in the World Trade Center attack.
A father, husband, brother and a decorated member of Rescue 4/FDNY, Farrell was among 343 firefighters who died that day.
Seven years later, a thousand miles away in Bradenton, Steve Pontious, a retired firefighter from West Manatee Fire Rescue, was so moved by Farrell's story that he decided to dedicate his retirement to providing relief under Farrell's name to firefighters and their families facing hardship.
Pontious, 56, started the Florida Chapter of the Ter
ry Farrell Firefighters Fund in 2008.
"I met Terry's brother, Brian, at a firefighter's convention and we started talking," Pontious recalls. "They didn't have a Florida chapter. I got my friend Matt Thornton, from North River Fire District, involved and we decided to form the Florida chapter and support firefighters throughout the state."
Since 2008, the Florida Chapter of the Terry Farrell Firefighter's Fund has given more than $10,000 to firefighters and their families in Florida, with the money coming from grants, donations and fund-raising, Pontious said.
"We assist firefighters who have been injured or we try to assist families of fallen firefighters," he said. "We also try to get larger fire departments to donate equipment to the Terry Farrell Fund and we donate it at no cost to smaller departments."
Pontious, also well known in Manatee County as an oval track stock car racer, has been selected as a Bradenton Marauders' "All-Stars Among Us," a person who has made a positive impact on Manatee County in the realm of either youth education and athletics, non-profit volunteering or first responders. Pontious' recognition comes in the non-profit volunteer division.
Pontious and seven fellow "All-Stars" will be honored during the Florida State League All-Star Game on Saturday at McKechnie Field.
Pontious will receive $500 from the Marauders and $500 for the charity of his choice -- the Terry Farrell Firefighter Fund.
"Steve is down to earth and will do anything for anyone," said Pontious' wife, Pam Bearden Pontious. The couple were sweethearts at Manatee High School in the early 1970s and got married in 1977, when Steve was 19. They have a son, Blair, 28, who has followed in his father's footsteps and is a firefighter for the North River Fire Department.
"I think the Terry Farrell Fund has been a blessing for Steve because he loves to help people," Pam Pontious added.
While still at Manatee High, Steve Pontious volunteered at Westside fire station in West Bradenton and ended up serving at that station for 31 years. The station later merged with Anna Maria's fire station and became West Manatee Fire Rescue.
Information on donating to the Terry Farrell Fund: 941-720-0353.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.