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Pictured with a couple of her friends, Nancy Porter will be greatly missed.
Pictured with her "life partner" Steve Harrington, Nancy was a lifelong teacher and a lifelong lover of people and animals
A canine friend presents Nancy with a basket of flowers in the garden at the SPCA.

Nancy Jean Porter: The Meaning of Compassion

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 Porter.

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 poem "Shelter."

"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 Plainsman" Harrington.

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, too.

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