Albert P. Pontick, a pioneer veterinarian in towns from Riverhead to East Hampton, died on July 24 at the Southampton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, just a few months short of his 99th birthday. The cause was renal failure, said his son, Albert Pontick Jr.
Dr. Pontick took over the East Hampton Animal Hospital in 1941. At the time, the practice was about 60 percent “large animal” — livestock and horses. As East End farms disappeared, he witnessed a shift in clientele from farmers to the rich and famous.
After one semester at Temple University in Philadelphia on a baseball scholarship (he threw out his arm and didn’t make the team), he left. His plan was to become a journalist, but Mac Miller, who would become his brother-in-law, dissuaded him, he told an interviewer in 2008, saying, “Your grades weren’t that high in English, so you really don’t have a good start. And you don’t have any money. Why don’t you become a veterinarian? You get your education for free.”
Dr. Pontick then transferred to Cornell, where Henrietta (Hatter) Wells, the love of his life, whom he’d met as a first grader in Setauket, was a student there. He graduated from Cornell’s veterinary school in 1939.
Born in rural Pennsylvania, Dr. Pontick was raised in an eight-child family; they had a cow, chickens, and rabbits. His father died at 38, and his mother remarried a man who’d just lost his farm and become a laborer. Times were tough during the Depression, and the young man worked four jobs to help the family out.
Dr. Pontick’s first practice, right after he graduated, was in Rochester. After a year, he moved to Riverhead, where he satisfied his earlier journalistic ambition, writing a series of articles on animal diseases for a weekly magazine published by the U.S. Farm Burea