For Ogilvie residents Jeff and Becky Ponto, the recovery process from a November night when they were attacked in their rural home has had its ups and downs. But, as the couple explained during a recent interview, it's been a road with welcome-home parades, community support, and love.
The Pontos were attacked by a hammer-wielding man in their home late last year. The suspect was allegedly looking for his ex-girlfriend. Both were hospitalized in critical condition.
As a first responder and fireman, Jeff knew a lot of the emergency personnel who came to the scene to provide life-saving medical assistance. An officer at the scene had to perform CPR on Becky, keeping her alive before the helicopter arrived.
"We are thankful for all of them," Becky said. "Because without them, Jeff and I wouldn't be here. Those men started the process of keeping us alive."
After the attack, Jeff spent a month in HCMC that he doesn't remember; he says he was just lucky to be alive. One of his ears is deaf after the attack, which doctors have said can't be fixed.
When the Pontos returned back to Ogilvie in February, they were greeted by a pair of parades from the Ogilvie and Mora fire departments. The ambulance crew and first responders served as part of the welcoming committee during their drive home.
Jeff guesses maybe 300 people from town flocked to wish their neighbors well.
"It meant a lot to us," Jeff Ponto said.
Becky Ponto shared those sentiments.
"I wish I could tell you who was there," she said. "But the minute I saw everybody, I started crying. I couldn't stop. It was like you could just hear their love coming to us."
Jeff has recently returned to work at Jeff's Auto and Tire, his auto repair shop at 202 North Hill Avenue in Ogilvie. Right now, it's open Monday through Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
He's acclimating to a lighter workload, "I can't do a lot of the heavy jobs," he says, but is happy to be back.
The recovery process is an ongoing one, but Jeff says both he and his wife are getting better. Jeff has gone to HCMC for a driving test to get the green light for being back on the road, and Becky has an upcoming eye surgery scheduled for May.
"It's just a long process," he said. "We're both still going quite a bit to Welia, to the therapists."
Both Jeff and Becky feel boundlessly grateful for the outpouring of community support they've received. The Ogilvie Fire Department has an all-day benefit planned for the couple on June 17.
They're happy to be alive for each other, for their kids, for their families, for the emergency services and hospital employees and community members who have helped the couple in ways big and small.
"I feel like almost everyone in Ogilvie and Mora, they all know us and say hi, and that is so honoring," Becky said. "We just used to go hunting or walking, and now I go and see people who are very, very happy to see Jeff and me alive."