Phillip James Poniktera
May 12, 1952 - May 31, 2021
Phillip James Poniktera passed away unexpectedly at a family gathering on the evening of May 31, 2021.
Phillip was born May 12, 1952, in La Mesa, California to Henry John and Phyllis Helen Poniktera. Phillip had two older brothers, John and Christopher, and two younger sisters, Linda and Mary. Phillip often spoke of his childhood memories growing up in El Cajon with a deep fondness and loved his parents and siblings dearly.
Phillip was an outstanding athlete at every activity he attempted, but the sports he was most dedicated to were baseball and football. Phillip excelled as a pitcher and third baseman and was a top tier quarterback. Phillip graduated from Granite Hills High School in 1970, and San Diego State University in 1975.
Phillip also had a passion for motor sports of all kinds and started riding motorcycles at the age of 16. While he enjoyed off-road activities, his true delight was found in working on and riding Harley Davidson motorcycles, of which he built and customized many throughout his lifetime, some even award winning.
After college, Phillip followed in his brother John's footsteps, beginning his first career as a Journeyman Steamfitter. One of his most notable projects was the San Onofre Power Plant. Phillip bought his first home in Escondido in 1979, and when his sister Mary visited with her best friend, Debra Elizabeth Harb, an undying love was ignited. Phillip and Debra married in 1980 and started their family in 1981. As the physically strenuous duties of being a steamfitter began to take a toll on Phillip's body, coupled with his desire to spend more time with his young family, Phillip began his first entrepreneurial venture owning a Chem-Dry franchise. While the business was successful, Phillip's heart was not fulfilled, and he began a new venture as an independent refurbisher of hot rods and motorcycles of all kinds. This was Phillip's true joy, but as the economy changed the business became unsustainable. Phillip decided to go back to school to become a teacher, and in doing so touched many lives in the local communities in which he taught. Phillip served as a mentor, athletic coach, and life coach to children throughout the county.
Phillip endured much tragedy in his life and was resilient until his dying day. Phillip and Debra lost two infant children to SIDS, Henry John in 1982 and Michelle Elizabeth in 1986. Phillip's beloved Debra lost her battle with cancer in 2000; Phillip would never remarry. In 2008, Phillip survived a deadly motorcycle accident that required lengthy hospital stays and countless surgical procedures. This accident forced Phillip into early retirement. Thereafter, he spent most of his time with his children and grandchildren, still enjoying motor vehicles of all kinds as much as he was able.
Phillip also experienced much joy in his life. Phillip loved dogs and always had a family dog. Phillip would walk multiple times a week with his most recent companion, Sherlock, a basset hound, and they were inseparable. Phillip loved music, mostly rock and roll and classic rock, and truly enjoyed dancing. Phillip loved sports, occasionally playing golf, and always watching the game of the day or UFC matches. Phillip was an intellect, completing his daily crosswords without fail and never missing a Jeopardy episode. He loved books and film, and movie nights with the family were a common affair. Phillip loved the ocean, the mountains, and the desert, often taking his family camping throughout the years. He coached his children's athletic teams when they were young and was always their biggest fan when he wasn't coaching. Phillip held a special place in his heart for all of his siblings, nieces, and nephews. Phillip had exceptionally special relationships with each of his children and was their rock and anchor in all ways.
Phillip was a fighter, and always did whatever it took to provide for and protect his family. Phillip instilled solid values, discipline, and work ethic in all those around him, especially his children. Phillip was a force to be reckoned with: handsome, strong, intelligent, funny, genuine, articulate, charismatic, well-written, and full of love and compassion. Phillip was a patriot and exemplified the ideal of an American man and father and was a legend to all who knew him well.
Phillip is survived by his children, Amanda Jean, Rebecca Sherina, Phillip James II, and Arbella Marinda. Phillip is also survived by Rebecca's husband Trenton James Holbrook; their children Cooper James and Calissa Elizabeth; and, of course, his dog Sherlock. In a written document recently found by his children, he referred to them as "my children, who I love beyond mortal comprehension."
Please join us in honoring our Ghost Rider in the Sky Saturday, June 19, 10:00 am at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Encinitas, California.
Published by San Diego Union-Tribune from Jun. 10 to Jun. 13, 2021.