PORT TOWNSEND — The Fort Worden Commons now bears a plaque honoring the late Nora Porter as a “champion for Fort Worden” after a dedication ceremony.
It’s an honor Porter deserves, though she would have never admitted that, said former state Rep. Lynn Kessler at Monday’s ceremony.
Kessler said that the idea of naming the Fort Worden Commons for Porter wasn’t widely accepted at first because Porter never wanted credit for what she did or for anyone to know the work she did.
She said Porter’s history is Port Townsend and it is appropriate for her name to be on the building.
“She may or may not like it, but she’s not here,” Kessler said to a laughing crowd.
Porter, a devoted and celebrated civic activist and community volunteer, died at the age of 74 of lung cancer in October 2011. She worked as Kessler’s aide for the first third of Kessler’s 18-year legislative career.
The state Parks and Recreation Commission renamed Building 210 the Nora Porter Commons in 2015 in recognition of her contributions.
Kessler said she hopes some of Porter’s friends would help her build a story board that will help people know who Porter was.
“Generations later people are going to come say ‘who is Nora Porter?’ ” she said. “We need a story board” for people who come and visit.
Dave Robison, executive director at Fort Worden, called Porter a “force to be reckoned with.”
“She was a bulldog,” he said. “She was Lynn Kessler’s gatekeeper and much much more.”
Robison said that Porter was the kind of person people always wanted on their side. To get anything done politically in Port Townsend, “you better talk to Nora first,” he said.
He recalled when he approached her with plans to build the Northwest Maritime Center. After his presentation, Porter sighed and Robison remembers her saying “this makes no economic sense, this is not even in the community as a whole’s best interest.”
She made him redo his presentation, urging him to stress community and statewide benefits. After several weeks of developing a “fact sheet,” she then let him talk to Kessler, he said.
“Without Nora’s help we would not have gotten to Lynn Kessler … and we wouldn’t have gotten $2.2 million in capital appropriations and the maritime center would not have been completed,” he said.
Porter was presented with a Jefferson County Heart of Service award in May 2011 for her longtime public service.
She was recognized for her passionate support of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County and other education and community causes.
She supported the Port Townsend Foundation and the Port Townsend High School Scholarship Foundation, both of which she helped create.
She also served on the Port Townsend School Board, the Fort Worden Advisory Committee and the Peninsula College Board of Trustees.
“Nora was passionate about a lot of things, but she was especially passionate about education and children,” said Jean Camfield, Porter’s friend.
She served on the Port Townsend School District Board and helped raise money for a scholarship foundation’s endowment, Camfield said.
Camfield said that Porter’s family history is all about Port Townsend.
“The town and Fort are in Nora’s history,” Camfield said.
Porter’s grandfather was in the army at Fort Worden and her dad, a soldier, was a city clerk.
Camfield said that to honor Porter after she died, Habitat for Humanity of Jefferson County built Nora’s Park in the Birkenfeld Community.
She said that in that community is also a street called Nora Porter Way.
“For those of you that knew Nora the best, it’s a one-way street,” she said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].