The last hours of Robert Pons’ life were filled with joy.

As he had done for 51 straight years, Pons watched the Super Bowl on Sunday with his wife, Mary Lee, by his side. He cheered as his beloved New England Patriots came back from a huge deficit and was elated when they won the game in overtime.

Pons died unexpectedly at his Kennebunk home shortly after the game. He was 78.

“He went to his maker because he knew his Patriots had won,” his wife said Tuesday.

Throughout the game, Pons cheered for the Pats, only briefly questioning whether they could pull off a comeback, family members said Tuesday, the day when the Patriots paraded through the streets of Boston to celebrate the historic win.

“It gave me some peace to know he was happy. He was very excitedly giving my mom the play-by-play at the end,” said his daughter, Caryn Pons. “It sort of makes me laugh that this is how he went out.”

On Sunday, Pons looked forward to the game even though he hadn’t felt well for several days. His family does not know the exact cause of his death, but suspect he had a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in his lungs.

Robert Pons loved spending time with his grandsons Owen and Luke. His wife said Pons was a soft-spoken, thoughtful person who bonded with his family members through sports. Photo courtesy of Pons family

Robert “Bob” Pons grew up in the shadow of Boston, the son of a Brookline firefighter who taught him that taking care of his family was his most important duty. Pons was a standout athlete in high school, competing on the football, hockey and baseball teams. He went on to play hockey at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire and for two years at Boston College before leaving the sport to concentrate on his studies. After college, he worked in the insurance industry before going to work for the federal government in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Throughout his life, Pons was a die-hard New England sports fan. He loved watching the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics and, after the team started playing in 1960, rooted faithfully for the Patriots. During the 1980s, when the Patriots had far less success, he and his wife had season tickets and went to every home game.

Pons was especially passionate about the Red Sox and Patriots. The family gathered together on Sundays to watch the Patriots play.

“He didn’t miss a Sunday. Sundays were for church and sports,” his daughter said. “Everyone would be yelling at the TV.”


Pons was a quiet and thoughtful man who often used sports to bond with his family, his wife said.

He met Mary Lee when they were living in the same Washington, D.C., apartment building. They watched the first Super Bowl together in his apartment on Jan. 15, 1967, and married two years later.

“I don’t think we ever missed a Super Bowl,” she said.

Pons attended all of the kids’ sporting events and taught them to skate while he and his wife were raising their son and daughter in Massachusetts. When he agreed to coach his daughter’s soccer team, he checked out books from the library to teach himself about a sport he had never played. His wife said they always enjoyed spending weekends on the sidelines cheering for their children.

Robert Pons, who played hockey in college, was a die-hard New England sports fan throughout his life. He was a steadfast Patriots supporter and also rooted for the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. Photo courtesy of Pons family

In his later years, as peripheral neuropathy made it difficult from him to get around, Pons spent even more time following his teams.

“He became so involved in watching sports because he missed being active,” said his son Greg. “Every time the ball was bouncing back and forth on TV, he would watch it.”

In the last few years, Pons watched nearly every Patriots game with his wife and son, who also lives in Kennebunk. Mary Lee Pons said her husband always wore a Patriots sweatshirt during games and at Christmas hung Patriots ornaments on the tree.

“He had everything Patriots,” she said.


There was extra excitement in the Pons house about Super Bowl LI because of the matchup between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. Caryn Pons and her family live in Georgia, where her husband, Michael, and one of their sons were rooting for the Falcons. As she described the friendly rivalry, Caryn Pons recalled how her father pulled Michael aside at the rehearsal dinner before their wedding to warn him to “never speak a bad word about New England sports.”

“I’m pretty sure Mike thought he was serious and I’m pretty sure he was,” she said with a laugh.

When he wasn’t cheering for his teams, Pons delighted in showing off photos of his grandsons, Owen and Luke, bragging about his children and spending time with his wife in the home they built after retiring to Maine 15 years ago. He often went to Gooch’s Beach, where he’d sit on the benches and watch the ocean.

“He’d look out over the beach and talk about how lucky we are to live here,” his son said.

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