Animals Pets 11

Marilyn Mesi Pona

January 16, 1946 ~ May 19, 2022 (age 76)


Pona, Marilyn Mesi, 76, joined her daughter, Gina Pona, Thursday, May 19, 2022.

She leaves her husband of 52 years, Pete Pona; sons, Pete (Caryn) & Tony (Nicki); 4 grandchildren; her mom, Katherine H. Cassell and friends. 

In 1981 Marilyn Pona founded the Support Dogs chapter in Saint Louis, Missouri. Shortly after in 1986 Marilyn establishes the TOUCH therapy dog program a first of its kind in the nation. Specially trained dogs visiting patients in hospitals for emotional support. In 1987 President George H.W. Bush recognized Marilyn Pona as 1000 Point of Light and in 1989 Marilyn Pona served on the advisory board of Delta Society for assistance animals. In 1990 Marilyn worked with Federal legislators on the crafting of the American disability Act. In 1996 she established Assistance Dogs for Living, a not for profit organization helping owners self-train their own service dogs.

The Humane Society of Missouri hires Marilyn Pona in the mid 1990s to help establish a nationally recognized therapy dog program. And in 1998 the Sisters of St. Joseph recognize Marilyn Pona with the Fontbonne University Founders’ Award and honorary degree.

Throughout the 2000s Marilyn continued to work with Missouri dog trainers and veterinarians in establishing self trained Assistance dogs protocols. She was instrumental in changing the way assistance dogs were used not only the visually impaired and blind but those with disabilities that were often invisible. Marilyn Pona pioneered the use of service dogs for PTSD and anxiety. Her work and legacy lives across the globe today with the thousands of people who are able to live their independent lives through the companionship of an assistance dog.

Services: John L. Ziegenhein & Sons, 4830 Lemay Ferry Rd (63129). Visitation, Wed. May 25th 4-8pm Funeral, Thurs. May 26th 10am.

To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.


May 25, 2022

4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
John L. Ziegenhein & Sons South County
4830 Lemay Ferry Rd
St. Louis, MO 63129

Funeral Service
May 26, 2022

10:00 AM
John L. Ziegenhein & Sons South County
4830 Lemay Ferry Rd
St. Louis, MO 63129


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