Nancy Jean Porter: The Meaning
By Gary Ruegsegger
Downtowner Senior Editor
At the entrance to the SPCA on
Holland Road, the definition of the word "compassion"
dominates the doorway-"a feeling of deep sorrow
for the suffering of others, accompanied by a strong
desire to alleviate it." The inscription certainly
defines both the word and the life of Nancy Jean
Nancy, a 1968 graduate of Granby
High School and so much more, was the only child
of the late Herbert and Pearl Porter. She was a
lifelong teacher and a lifelong lover of people
and animals. Nancy spent most of her formal teaching
career as a French teacher at Norview Middle School,
but even after her retirement she kept teaching
the rest of us how to care about others.
Nancy passed away on Nov. 21, 2016
at Princess Anne Hospital. Stephen Harrington, her
"Life Partner," made the "hardest
decision I (he) have ever had to make" and
had her taken off life support that day. He followed
her wishes and her organs were donated for transplants.
Recently Steve received a thank
you note from a 60-year old father of nine who received
Nancy's liver as a transplant. Nancy's spirit still
lives in the transplant and the work she did in
our schools and as a volunteer at the SPCA. But
this story is about Nancy and Steve.
Steve and Nancy's was a love story
for over thirty years with the rock group Eagles
playing their soundtrack in the key of life. Steve
was always Steve and Nancy was always Nancy-not
a bad combination.
Nancy not only loved Steve and
Eagles music, but she also loved their home at Chicks
Beach. Steve designed and built the house-many say
it's the most stunning structure in a more than
stunning location. The house can best be described
as "a two-story circle connected by a breezeway
to a two-story trapezoid." In Steve's words,
"I don't build boxes." Like I said, Nancy
loved Steve and their beach home.
Nancy also loved animals, especially
dogs. Steve was the cat lover in the family. As
a volunteer, Nancy spent most of her time and energy
training and finding new homes for SPCA dogs. My
sister-in-law Candy Brady adopted her dog Chloe
with Nancy's assistance. Countless other dogs in
the area found new homes because of Nancy.
On Dec. 18, 2016, the SPCA held
a memorial service for Nancy. Over 100 people attended.
As Nancy's friends entered the room-the same room
where Candy adopted Chloe-a lone musician played
the strains of "Over the Rainbow."
Almost a dozen teachers from Norview
Middle were present as were countless SPCA volunteers
and other friends. Taz, one of Nancy's favorite
dogs, was there to greet the guests as they arrived.
Before the ceremony, they dedicated
a garden bench "In Loving Memory of Nancy Porter"
accompanied with an excerpt from Sandy Patten's
"No doubt fate played a
role in leading her here, Indelibly linking their
two fives. Wrapping her arms around him in a gentle
hug, She wonders, Who really rescued whom?"
An Episcopal priest began the service
by saying, "Grief is just love that has no
place to go." When she asked others to speak
of Nancy, a dozen stood up and gave their love a
place to go.
"Nancy was a loving, unselfish
woman. She was a gifted teacher and a loyal friend.
She was known to quietly help her friends and not
expect anything in return. She had a heart of gold.
Her friendship was a real gift," explained
Joy Wotherspoon, a teacher who car pooled with Nancy.
"I don't know WHY she was taken so soon. God
must have needed her to care for the pets in heaven."
Lisa Harris, currently Specialist of Foreign Languages
at the Virginia Department of Education and a "dear
friend of Nancy's for 25 years", spoke of Nancy's
first words to her, "How long before we can
take the kids to Quebec?"
They made the trip several times
and through fundraisers she and Nancy made sure
that every child in their classes could go. Currently
Lisa's grandchildren have two dogs compliments of
Nancy. Lisa's son Adam helped get the yard equipment
for her Pungo property in tip top shape.
The consensus of the other speakers
was "We are forever grateful to her" and
"Nobody cared more than Nancy." Then the
room quieted as Steve spoke.
For those of you who don't know
Steve Harrington, you should. He is the son of Washington
and Lee football coach and legend, Charles "The
A graduate of Virginia Wesleyan
College, Steve can engineer just about any project
and is the gifted artist behind Coastal Guardians
which produces historic lighthouse illustrations.
For years, Steve and Nancy traveled up and down
the East Coast researching lighthouse history. Their
research is now housed in the Virginia Beach Library.
Nancy dreamed of establishing a
business training service dogs for autistic children,
wounded veterans and others. She even purchased
a home for the business. Steve will continue to
live on the property where he and others "hope
to finish what she began."
"It will be a work in progress
at first but one I will pledge the rest of my life
to," said Steve at the memorial service. "Nancy
was worth it."
Nancy's dream is worth it,