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May 5, 2023


John Stephen Porter

It is with a heavy hearts that we mark the passing of John Stephen Porter, on May 5, 2023, in Hingham, MA, at 90 years of age.  John is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 65 years, Marie Caroline (Eiffert) Porter, and by his sons Stephen (Carol) of Quincy, MA, David (Tiem) of Temple, TX, Mark (Beth) of Hingham, MA, Kevin (Danielle) of Cleveland, OH, and Matthew (Donna) of Hingham, MA, his grandchildren Sara, Terri, Hannah, Melissa, Lily, Michael, and Benjamin, and twelve great-grandchildren.  John was the loving son of the late Frank and Margaret (McGreel) Porter, and brother to the late James, Ross, Paul, Barbara (Poluikis), and Joseph Porter.  He was the last of a truly great generation of the Porter clan.  

John was born on September 2, 1932, in Rochester, New York, where he was raised during the Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.  While his family never owned a home, John always said he never realized they were poor, since everyone they knew was in the same dire financial straits.  A true product of his times, John placed a high value on education, hard work, self-sufficiency, and concern for others in need.  Raised in the pre-Vatican II Church, John left home as a teenager to study at St. Mary’s College in Northeast, PA, a Minor Seminary run by the Redemptorists.  While John ultimately concluded that he did not have a vocation to the priesthood (as evidenced by his wife and 5 sons), he prized the classical education he received there, and the values that were inculcated to him at Northeast, for the rest of his life.  Upon leaving the seminary, he returned to Rochester and soon joined the U.S. Air Force, serving as a Navigator on B-29 bombers and achieving the rank of Lieutenant during his 4 years of service.  John was proud of his service, and rightly so, but in a quiet way that reflected his overall approach to life, in which humility and service were assumed and valued.

After leaving the Air Force, John attended St. John Fisher College in Rochester, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English (something his sons were all too well aware of whenever their grammar didn’t quite meet the mark), followed by a master’s degree in communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.  But even after his formal schooling ended, John remained a life-long learner, who invariably had at least two books in front of him at any point in time, ranging from history to theology to the classics to a modern spy novel.  To say reading was his passion might be perhaps the biggest understatement of all time.

Once he left Syracuse, John began what can only be described as a remarkable career, becoming one of the true pioneers in public television.  He was one of the founders of WXXI in Rochester, NY, where he served as President and General Manager, actually purchasing the television antenna from General Electric so they could go live.  His business acumen and vision were so obvious, however, that he was soon recruited to leave his hometown. In 1969, John moved to Boston with his wife and five little boys, to become the President of a fledgling television production and distribution company called Eastern Educational Television Network.  By the time he retired in 1998, under his passionate and careful leadership, that little regional entity had grown into a national powerhouse named American Public Television, which was responsible for bringing scores of iconic programs to the public television including Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, Nightly Business Report, Travels in Europe with Rick Steves, Perry Como’s 1994 Christmas Special – Live from Ireland,  and The Lord of the Dance, to name just a few.  

But for all his professional achievements, if you asked him John would have told you that his greatest accomplishment was his family.  You would be hard pressed to find a man more devoted to his wife than John was to the love of his life, Marie, to whom he was married for 65 years.  Like all couples, they had their ups and downs, but their love for one another never wavered, and their sacramental marriage bond was unbreakable.  It was beautiful to behold, especially in their later years as they taught all of us what it means when a couple vows to stay together “in sickness and in health.”  That love produced five sons, who were always on his mind and close to his heart, even when they moved far away for college, business, or military service.  

John was truly a renaissance man from the old school: husband, father, veteran, business leader, lifelong learner, athlete, and later in life a would-be chef and golfer.  He had an Irish wit, a keen intellect, and a natural charisma that drew others to him.  But even with all his obvious gifts and notable accomplishments, he remained humble, dignified, and decent.  Even when he suffered so greatly during his final convalescence, he never failed to thank the nursing home staff who cared for him.  He was a good and decent man, and he will be missed, for the world is a far better place because he was in it.  

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for John on Friday, May 26, 2023, at 12:00 PM, at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, 147 North Street, Hingham, MA.  Visiting hours will be immediately prior to Mass, from 10:30-11:30 AM, at Pyne Keohane Funeral Home, 21 Emerald Street, Hingham, MA.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to St. John Fisher University in Rochester, NY, his beloved alma mater.  

Eternal rest grant unto John, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him.  And may John’s soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.