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BILL PORTER MADE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
By Marshall McClung
I feel that the following story is an appropriate one to share with you during this Christmas season for it is a story of giving in the truest sense. While gathering information for this story, I reached the conclusion that "Father Christmas" would have been an appropriate title for Bill Porter. Bill and Ala Porter had three children, all girls, and they shared their memories of their father and Christmases past with me.
The oldest daughter, Pat Jones remembers when she was a little girl that her father would start getting excited about Christmas in October. He would start buying gifts and hiding them in January for the following Christmas. He had secret hiding places for the gifts that the little girls were never able to find. These gifts were not just for his daughters but also for needy children he would encounter through the year.
Pat remembers one Christmas when Bill found out about a needy mother with five or six children who were not going to have anything for Christmas. Bill had already given out all the gifts he had. Bill enlisted the help of Brodus Collins and Harvey Jones to deliver "Christmas" to this family. The daughters said that Bill purchased much of the gifts for other children from Collins five and dime or "Collins Dime Store" as it was called locally. The girls said their father would often get Brodus to open the store after closing time on Christmas Eve after Bill had located some more needy "Christmas Angels." They said Brodus donated some of the gifts, cut the price on some, and on occasion helped deliver some.
Linda Siler, the middle daughter said she could remember a little girl about her age when she was eight or nine years old who had played with her and had told her "I never get anything for Christmas" One year not long before Christmas, Bill saw this little girl playing in the cold barefoot and wearing a ragged dress. Bill bought clothing, shoes,. toys, and food for the little girl and arranged for her to spend Christmas with them. Linda said her father would be gone for hours on Christmas Eve delivering gifts to the needy often leaving it on their doorstep or porch. He kept his good deeds a secret. In fact the girls are just now finding out about some of his work from people who received gifts.
The youngest daughter Billy White said her first Christmas gift was a train set bought before she was born. They thought she was going to be a boy, hence the name '~Billy." Billy said as she and her sisters outgrew their toys their father would refurbish them and give them to other children at Christmas. One of her favorite toys was a little red wagon that she rode a pet raccoon in. In time, the wagon was repainted and given to another small child.
Items that others might discard became gifts. Ends and pieces of cloth from Helen's Sew and Save Shop became dresses for dolls.
Bill's good deeds for needy families at Christmas continued down through the years:
Bill's love and caring extended beyond children and included widows and the elderly, and lasted all year long, not just at Christmas.
Daughter Billy says one of her fondest Christmas memories is her father taking her shopping for her own gift on Christmas Eve. He would give her the money and turn her loose in the store to select her own gift. It would be cold and snowy and Christmas lights would be ablaze everywhere. The song "Silver Bells" would be playing. The song still brings tears to Billy's eyes today.
In 1981, Bill Porter became ill with a heart condition and was hospitalized the week before Thanksgiving. Bill told his family when leaving home that he would not be back which turned out to be true. Bill had already bought Christmas gifts and had them hidden away as usual. Only then was his secret hiding place discovered a large box in the attic covered in plastic.
As his condition grew steadily worse, Bill told his family "I won't ruin Christmas for you." True to his word, Bill clung to life through Christmas morning and afternoon. Christmas night at 8:02 PM., after all the gift giving and other activities of Christmas Day were over, Bill Porter went to live in the land from whence "Christmas" came. Bill's daughters Pat, Linda, and Billy wish to say they love him, miss him, and wish him a Merry Christmas even though they know he resides in the land of Christmas.
"DO not do your good deeds before men to be seen, but do them in secret, and your Father shall reward you openly." Matthew 6: 1-4
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