Vera Porter: A Tribute
A pillar of Appleton Village
Appleton: 22nd February 2010: Vera Porter died on Monday 8th February 2010 aged 89, and the village of Appleton remembers a person who contributed so much to the community for over 40 years.
With a father who represented American banks in dealings with national governments, Vera was born in Copenhagen, where she spent just two years before stays in the North America, Australia and, in 1930 aged just 10, Shanghai. An interesting life for Vera and her older sister, Jean – and enjoying a lifestyle with several staff to assist the family in their day-to-day lives.
In 1933 Vera’s mother was seriously ill and, after consultations with many medical people who could not determine what was wrong, it was recommended she saw Dr Harry W Miller, who was medical director at the Shanghai Sanitarium and Hospital, a Seventh-day Adventist foundation, and who became famous for his work on soybean and soy foods. Dr Miller and his team of nurses knelt down in prayer before the operation on Vera’s mother and, against all the odds, she made a recovery. This became the moment she became a Seventh-day Adventist and hastened the decision by her husband to set up home in the UK, where his wife had eight brothers and sisters.
Tragedy struck: Vera’s father died suddenly in his early fifties, only weeks after their arrival in the UK, leaving a family of three with very little money. The American bank provided no pension, but bought a small house in the Wiltshire village of Box – a cottage where water had to be drawn from a well in the garden by Vera’s mother. The two girls gained scholarships to Bath High School and would cycle the 13-mile round trip each day.
Resisting a life dedicated to the cause of the Seventh-day Adventists, Vera aged 16, in order to pacify her mother, agreed, but “only for a year” to attend Newbold College, their national college to train as a primary school teacher. Upon completion of her training in 1940 she went to teach in Plymouth, just at the time the Luftwaffe attacked the city! The school was closed some months later and Vera spent the remainder of the war teaching at a school in Watford.
Taking a crash course to gain her State Teaching Certificate, Vera settled down to teaching in the UK until she was asked, in 1951, by the Seventh-day Adventist organisation, to go to Kenya and assess teaching skills of Kenyan teachers. Based at the Kamagambo High School, Vera toured small schools in the surrounding area, inspecting the schools and assessing teachers. She was to spend nearly nine years in Kenya and partly during the Mau Mau insurgencies but, unlike so many other white people in the country at the time, refusing to have a pistol under her pillow! A poisonous snake did attack her and, with a leg about to be amputated, the power of prayer intervened and her leg was saved and she made a miraculous recovery. She was forever to love Africa and the Africans: she spoke Swahili fluently.
Returning to the UK in 1960 she became Dean of Women at the Seventh-day Adventist Newbold College which, by then, had moved to Binfield, Berkshire. It was there she met, and subsequently married, Dennis Porter in August 1962. His family had belonged to the faith since 1899 and, with a degree in history, he lectured on the subject to Newbold students – as well as working at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
After their marriage they settled in Yarnton, before moving to Appleton in 1968. Approached by parish councillors Mrs Rosemary Dick and Mrs Molly Rose in 1970 to take on the role of Parish Clerk, Vera, began her work for the community –Parish Clerk in 1970, becoming a councillor in 1987 and chairing the council from 1989 until 1996 and finally leaving the council in 2002 at the age of 82.
She was involved in so many projects – the setting up of the low-cost housing, the building of the Appleton Sportsfield Pavilion, the formation of the Appleton & Eaton Tennis Club, the creation of the Appleton Community Shop, the master-minding of “The Parish Record”, celebrating 100 years of Parish Councils (1894 to 1994)** – a heavy tome containing photos, pictures and articles about the parish over the period – to name but a few of her achievements.
She would, until quite recently, be seen on all fours, collecting litter from outside the Appleton Community Shop and the village Almshouses: showing concern for one issue or another, walking the village footpaths and ensuring signs were in place – if not, beware, Vera would be on the case!
Margaret Reading, who succeeded Vera as chairman of the Parish Council in 1992, said: “Vera was an inspiration to us all. Tall, elegant, kind and caring, conscientious and encouraging, Vera always had time for people: she loved Appleton and we all loved Vera. Her sense of humour, quietly expressed and often understated, was lovely!
“Vera was very modest. Taking into account all the work she undertook to make the low-cost housing proposal possible, the council members proposed the development be called “Vera Porter Close”! She would have none of it – but we should all remember: that is what Horseshoe Close should really have been called! “She will be sadly missed and we all share our grief with Dennis, who has looked after her so marvellously over the last few challenging years.”
Vera Porter’s service was held in St Laurence Church on Thursday 18th February and was jointly administered by Ministers of the Seventh-day Adventists and the Rev Lyn Sapwell, the Vicar of Appleton. It is estimated 175 people attended the service and Vera is now at rest in the Appleton Churchyard in the village she loved so much.
Written with the approval and co-operation of Dennis Porter by Graham Rose
**The Book is at the West end in St Laurence Church: a key can be obtained from either Rev Lyn Sapwell or the Parish Council Clerk, Jane Dymock
Below are links to the local newspapers who published an obituary and the links to view their articles