Cover photo for Pier Luigi Di Ponti's Obituary
Pier Luigi Di Ponti Profile Photo
1936 Pier 2024

Pier Luigi Di Ponti

September 20, 1936 — January 1, 2024

Johnson City

Pier Luigi Maria De Ponti, of Johnson City, Tennessee, passed away at 87 years of age peacefully on Tuesday January 1st, 2024, at Johnson City Medical Center.

His parents were Giacomo De Ponti (March 23, 1884-Dec. 24,1965) and Maria Carolina De Ponti, nee Ceroni (Aug. 9, 1894 - Nov. 11, 1970).  He was born in Como, Italy near Lake Como during a time of war in Ethiopia, where his family lived.  Afterwards, they moved back to Ethiopia where he grew up with his parents, two brothers, Gianni and  Aurelio, and his sister, Luciana; he survived all three.  Like his late wife, Rebecca, he was the youngest of four siblings.  

He was raised Catholic in Agordat, and Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea).  He went to primary through college there, and he was in gymnastics.  He had a degree in accounting.  He was always athletic and in good shape, he liked working outside and with his hands.  He made many friends who remained close until his or their death.  Pier Luigi, known affectionately by his longtime friends as Gughi, was survived by Milena Barzanti, Giulia Spagna, among others and was very saddened from the death of one of his best friends, Bruno Cavassini.  

He had a very rich life in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where he met his first wife, and had two daughters.  They later divorced (and annulled), and he continued to own and operate a banana and citrus fruit plantation and incense factory in Ethiopia.  His family had property in Asmara, Aghordat, Italy and the Middle East.  He spoke many languages, including Arabic, Italian, English, and French as well as some Ethiopian dialects.  He loved people, animals and plants and was a kind soul who gave praise of others easily, and was very inspiring.  He liked to grow things and loved life, and enjoyed philosophizing, having many wise proverbs from different cultures that he would translate to English for the listener’s benefit.

In the early 1970’s he met his future wife, Rebecca Jean DePonti, who was a United States Army nurse stationed at Kagnew station in Eritrea.   They were married there in 1973 and honeymooned in Kenya. They had their only child once they moved from Africa to the United States in South Carolina. He had always wanted to go to the United States and became a proud citizen once he naturalized.  They were well travelled and have lived in Fort Sheridan (Chicago Illinois), Vicenza Italy, Fort Sam Huston Texas, Fort Polk Louisiana, Fort Meade Maryland, Fort Campbell Kentucky, and Fort Rucker Alabama until Rebecca retired from the military. He had jobs in security on different army bases at the exchange shops.  Eventually he focused more on home life until his wife’s retirement as it was hard to maintain a career after moving every two years.  His wife retired from the Army in 1989 and he and his family moved back to the farm in Johnson City where she grew up. There he went back to his roots and enjoyed maintaining the small farm, growing a garden, having a plant nursery and selling at the farmers market. He made many longtime friends at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, where he was a partitioner. 

He always loved the Catholic Church and got his faith from his very devout mother and his wisdom and fondness for people and culture from his father.  He told many stories about how well his father was liked in Ethiopia as well as his father’s and Pier’s admiration and familiarity with Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia until 1974.  Like his parents before him, Pier was a kindhearted soul who was well liked throughout his life and admired by many; he was funny, witty, kind-hearted, thoughtful and generous. He will be dearly missed by his many friends and family.  All will dearly miss his endearing stories of elephants, zebras, and other animals in Africa as well as all the adventures he had with his friends and family in Africa, Europe, and the USA.  He touched all of our hearts very dearly.

He is survived by his son, Warren; daughter, Liliana; daughter-in-law, Jenny; and five grandchildren, Isabella, Gabriella, Dario, Liliana, and Luca.

The family of Pier Luigi DePonti will receive friends and extended family on Wednesday, January 10th from 4-6pm at Morris-Baker Funeral home. The committal service will be presided by Deacon Mike of Saint Mary’s at the VA at Mountain Home at 10AM, Thursday January 11th. 

Memories and condolences may be shared with the family via

Morris-Baker Funeral home, 2001 E Oakland Ave, Johnson City, is honored to serve the De Ponti family. (423) 282-1521

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Pier Luigi Di Ponti, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

4:00 - 6:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Graveside Service

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Mountain Home National Cemetery

53 Memorial Avenue, Johnson City, TN 37684

Please gather at the cemetery gates in the historic section by 9:50 am to go in procession to the committal shelter.

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