News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Mayor Hank Porter remembered

Former Stayton Mayor Hank Porter was remembered as an exceptional man and a force for positive change during a celebration of life Jan. 9 at Calvary Lutheran Church, in Stayton.

Porter, who died Dec. 26, 2023 at age 81, served seven non-consecutive terms as mayor between 1979 and 2023, and three non-consecutive terms on the city council from 1974 to 2014.

This was in addition to being a beloved civics teacher and cross-country/track coach at Stayton Union High School from 1968 to 2002, and the owner of a gun shop in downtown Stayton. 

In his private life he served as commander for VFW Post 5638, himself an Army veteran during the 1906s who spent time stationed in Korea and Germany.

The service was led by Reverend Joel Nickel and around 200 people were in attendance.

Son Vaughn Porter said during the service his dad wore many hats because he “wanted to get out and do as much as he could and bring some good to the world.”

“As mayor he made a lot of efforts to try and improve on the city,” said Porter. “They weren’t always successful, but he put that effort out there.”

“He made an impact on the world,” Porter continued. “The fact that there’s so many people here (at the service) I think that speaks volumes of the mark he left on this world.”

Evidence of this impact came from former City Councilor Mark Kronquist, who provided a printed statement for display in the church lobby along with other remembrances.

Kronquist, who served from 2017 to 2022, said when Hank Porter became mayor again in 2015 the businesses on Third Avenue were dwindling, with Hank’s Gun Shop one of the few left operating. Kronquist said the mayor recruited local residents to reinvigorate the downtown core and “remade Stayton.”

In addition to his civic accomplishments, Hank Porter was remembered as a lover of learning and play. For his birthday in 2023, daughter Penelope Doss made Hank Porter a list of the  father-daughter wisdom she received over the years, and shared several during the service.

Among these maxims were “Hunting is more fun when you don’t shoot anything. There’s no mess and nothing to pack out. Some people call that camping.” Others included “If the park ranger does not know what they’re talking about, it’s OK to take over,” and “You can live off of oatmeal and prunes, you just don’t want to.”

Doss recalled how, during a weekly phone call with her dad last spring, he asked what she was doing for fun between work and chores. Doss said she was too busy, and Hank Porter replied, “That’s too bad. I wish you’d make time to go have fun.”

“I’ve thought about that a lot lately, and I’m going to make more time to go have some fun because that’s what he did,” said Doss, who also encouraged those in attendance to “be up for having fun.”

Hank Porter’s idea of fun varied broadly and included ancient history, books, movies, guns, cars, boats and outdoor excursions.

Son Arthur Porter recalled going on a hunting trip to Africa with his dad and the two toured the region in a truck for a couple of weeks. Arthur Porter said, though he and his dad fought a lot when they were younger, his dad grew to be his best friend and he will miss being able to connect.

“There won’t be a time I won’t want to call and ask him about something,” said Arthur Porter. “…He really was just a knowledgeable guy about everything.”

Nickel recalled Hank Porter as a scholar, public servant and occasional “sermon critic,” and said at the end of his life the late mayor felt burdened by the feeling that he was leaving much undone. 

Nickel said this is often the result of seeking the common good, because pursuing higher purposes is unending on this side of eternity.

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