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Helen Reynolds Porter, 96, passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 14, 2016.
She was born on November 6, 1919, in Lodi, Wis., the sixth of nine children (six boys and three girls).
Her father, Ralph, bred and raised championship beef cattle, judged at the International Livestock Fair in Chicago and served for many years on the Lodi School Board. Her mother, Vera Bartholomew, managed the home, fed the farm workers, and raised the children. Helen was responsible for significant household chores, excelled at school, and represented Lodi High in statewide speech and debate competitions.
Helen enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and met her future husband, John W. Porter, at a freshman mixer. He was completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry. They were married on June 12, 1941, and began a series of moves to accommodate John’s research career. He worked in laboratories in Chicago, Ill., and Lafayette, Ind., (where their three children were born) Richland, Wash., and in 1954, Madison, Wis., where he headed the Lipid Metabolism Laboratory and joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
Helen was proud of her husband’s success and took an active role in his career, coaching him in public speaking skills and traveling with him as he presented research findings in medical meetings all over the world. Helen hosted dinner parties and holiday gatherings for John’s Ph.D. students (many from foreign countries) and she was frequently among those students thanked in their dissertations.
Helen was a selfless person who found joy in the accomplishments of her husband and children, and she worked tirelessly in support of her community. She served on the boards of Mendota Beach Home Owners Association, Madison Friends of Foreign Students, Attic Angels, PEO, and Republican Women of Dane County. She was chair of the Dane County Wisconsin Republican Party and a delegate to the 1972 National Republican Convention. She was recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the University of Wisconsin Hospitals, where for 16 years she comforted and counseled cancer patients and their families.
After her husband John died in 1984, Helen pursued her love of nature, and bird-watching on trips to Africa, the Galapagos Islands, the Baja Peninsula, Alaska, and various other parts of the U.S. Helen’s faith was central in her life, and when she moved to Williamsburg in 2001, she found a spiritual home at Williamsburg Community Chapel. There she served many years on the Floral Guild and as a Stephen minister. She also volunteered at Waller Mill Elementary, reading stories to schoolchildren.
Helen always said that she had a good life, a good marriage, and wonderful children and grandchildren. She felt fortunate to have had two loving sons-in-law, John Green and Bob McDonald, both of whom she adored.
She was preceded in death by her husband; her son, John W. Porter Jr.; and by her brothers, Elmer, Elvin, Howard, Hugh and Joseph; and sister, Grace May. She is survived by her brother, Roy Reynoldsof Oregon, Wis.; sister, Ruth Paynter of Deerfield, Wis; her daughters, Mary McDonald, and her husband, Bob, of Alpharetta, Ga., and Sue Green, and her husband, John, of Williamsburg; six grandchildren, Lise Porter of Los Angeles, Calif., Patrick Porter of San Diego, Calif., Melissa Wardlaw-Waters, and her husband, Chris, of Los Altos, Calif., Kate Jacobus, and her husband, Will, of Cumming, Ga., Sara Green of Boston, Mass., and Brenden Green of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and six great-grandchildren. She is also survived by an adopted son, Jim Porter of Madison, Wis.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. April 9, 2016 at Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Highway in Williamsburg with reception to follow. Helen’s ashes will be scattered in Wisconsin.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given in Helen’s name to Elam, a Christian ministry that supports the underground church in Iran (sending Bibles, training pastors, ministering to those persecuted for their faith), 5755 North Point Parkway, #217, Alpharetta, GA 30022; or the Agape Fund of Williamsburg Community Chapel.
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