Obituary of Geraldine Byrne Porter
On the afternoon of May 3, 2021, Gerry Porter crossed to the bright side of eternity to join her husband, David, and her many Byrne and Sampson, relatives. Her passing took place in the company of three generations of her family- children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Though we were sad to have the matriarch of our broad clan leave us, we knew her soul was called by her Maker. We sang Amazing Grace through our tears--with both joy and sadness. Geraldine Byrne was born on December 6, 1926, in St. Paul, Minnesota to Nicholas James Byrne and Helen Harriet Sampson. She was the youngest of five Byrne children. She attended St Joseph Academy in high school. The family lived at Hazel Park a neighborhood platted and developed by relative Will Ames. In the Depression, they were forced to move to Mahtomedi on White Bear Lake where they lived in a summer house. Some of her fondest memories were of swimming and boating. In 1943 her father died from a heart attack. Mama moved soon after with her mother to Oak Grove where they lived with her older sister, Harriet, and family. Mama graduated from Marylhurst College in 1948 with a degree in History. She recalled riding the Greyhound Bus to get there from Oak Grove. At a college dance, she met David Dodican Porter, a University of Portland student and Navy pilot. They were married on September 4, 1948. Dad started his career as a high school science teacher. They bought their first house on Denfield Street in Beaverton. First child, David Michael, was born in December 1949. Mama enjoyed telling people that he had been at her college graduation. In utero. Siblings James Nicholas, Susan Marie, and Mary Elizabeth followed in short order. The family moved to a house on Montgomery Drive in Portland's West Hills. At the time, the market for large old houses was slow and Dad and Mama needed a big house for their growing family. Brian Joseph, Gregory John, Bruce Gerard, and Madonna Katherine soon arrived. In the mid-Sixties, the twins, Maureen Theresa and Mark Christopher completed the family. They moved again in the 70s to the house referred to as Marigold Manor in southwest Portland which is now the home of Susan and her husband Steven. Her last years were spent there in their care, just as she and Dad had cared for both of their mothers in previous years. When Mama was finishing her college work she and a friend created a radio show, The Chimney Corner, on a local station with stories and music. Mama continued her theatrical interests in later years when the family moved holiday gatherings to Epiphany at her suggestion. The change took pressure off all of us to cram everything into Christmas. She wrote and directed children and grandchildren in small plays based on ancient traditions of mummers and always with a Christmas theme. Mama had a literary bent and wrote poems and memoirs and stories throughout her life. In her eighties, she signed up for Fishtrap Writing Conference in eastern Oregon and wrote and read work there, an experience she found very energizing. Mama loved being “Gomma” to all her far-flung grandchildren. She always had a smile and a hug for each of them. She kept the Owl Jar from which candies were dispensed. She was always engaging them in a special way. Beginning in the 80s, she would assemble an “editorial staff” of grandchildren for The Porterville Summer Times. She made the process of writing and photocopying the paper an adventure. Through the years, the names of most of her grandkids appeared on the masthead in one role or another. Mama was a dreamer as well. She turned her writing skills to jingles in the 60s hoping that she'd sell one or more. Years later she borrowed one of her sons' cars to deliver telephone books as a way to make extra money. She was always keeping an eye out for a more perfect family home. And in the late 70s, she got her real estate license, more I think so she could look at possible candidate houses than to make lots of money. Mama and Dad were passionately Catholic. They both felt compelled to live their faith through personal and political action. Mom was a Republican and Dad was a Democrat but those affiliations took second place to living their values. They supported programs to feed people, to welcome immigrants, to support medical and educational programs to underserved communities. In the 50s they were active in the Christian Family Movement working with other couples to identify and deliver needed programs and services. They supported civil rights and worked together with Black couples in the city. In the 70s they became active in the pro-life movement, working hard to articulate their positions based on science and medicine. They were selfless but also scrupulous in acting compassionate rather than condemnatory toward all people. In the last years of her life, Mama's short-term memory and grasp of complex ideas began to fade. However, she was invariably generous in spirit and concerned about the welfare of those around her. When she was in the hospital, she would wave and throw kisses to the staff as she was checked out because they took such good care of her. Her face would always brighten with a big smile at the sight of her grand and great-grandchildren. She loved going out to eat, and pie was perhaps her favorite food. One of my last memories with her was feeding her lemon meringue pie and black coffee in tandem with my brother Nick on our sister's deck. Mama was not able to hold the spoon herself but she was happy to have us there. She gave us generous and treasured gifts her entire life. Her presence and joyful spirit were the greatest of them. Funeral Mass at St. John Fisher Catholic Church. 11 AM Friday, May 14. Due to COVID attendance at the church is limited. Memorial celebration to be scheduled later. Contributions in Gerry's name may be made to St. John Fisher school or to a charitable organization of your choice.
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