French Canadian Interview Project

Leland Ponton was born on December 27, 1940 in Kankakee, Illinois. He is the son of Joseph and Anna Ponton. Leland had two brothers and many adopted siblings. He attended St. Anne Academy and graduated at St. Anne High School.

As a child, Leland remembers growing up with the 1936 Chevrolet family car. He has countless childhood memories of his grandparents and their Native American as well as French-Canadian backgrounds. He grew up a very religious Roman-Catholic. Leland grew up learning to play guitar and the banjo. One way his mother brought home extra money was her selling of recipes to the famous Betty Crocker Company.

Leland grew up and had many careers including being a farmer, fireman, a county dispatcher, a surveyor, mechanic, and also became a very loving father. He met a woman Carolyn and soon after fathered four children. As Leland's family grew larger he had to turn his garage into more rooms. His garage was his home base for many of his careers.

Ponton's family descent had high influence on the Kankakee area. French Canadians came to this area when land was open for settlement. Canada became very over-populated and migration to the United States increased in 1846. The French Canadians also had high influence on the building of the Kankakee Area Airport.

Leland Ponton is a man who has over his lifetime collected many artifacts and wonderful stories. He and his four children still reside in the Kankakee area. His children have long since grown up and had children of their own. But they have carried on his gifts and talents in music, sports, and individualism. Today Leland lives in St. Anne and passes his stories and culture down to his grandchildren. Leland's wife Carolyn died in 1996. On March 20, 2004 he married Betty Callazo of Mount Vernon, Illinois. The ceremony took place at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Beaverville, Illinois.

In an interview, Leland once said "To love one another, race and culture set aside, is the bottom line."

For more information on Leland Ponton, see the following issues of Kankakee's The Daily Journal—September 8, 1988 article entitled "Dance Reigns Supreme"; July 23, 1996 "Carolyn Ponton's Obituary"; and June 11, 2001 article entitled "Near-Death Sparks Legendary Guitarist"; and September 26, 2004 article entitled "Beaver Creek Legends Live On in Ponton Book."