Listen Up! – Ray Porter is gentle, friendly and respectful, just like Santa Claus

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Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

YES VIRGINIA……

During the years that Peter and Elizabeth Rice ran the Forester and perhaps before, they ran the same editorial the week before Christmas titled, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Well I certainly don’t want to upset Virginia or any other person, but I have learned over the years that the spirit of Santa Claus comes in many forms, not the least of which is my good friend Ray Porter.

Ray suffered a serious stroke a couple of weeks ago and has been in hospital since. Earlier this week he was transferred to North Bay.

Ray has been a fixture in Huntsville since the 1960’s. I remember seeing him first as a newly-appointed constable when Huntsville had its own police force. He loved that job and was proud of his uniform. He was always visible on Main Street, the epitome of the friendly cop but at the same time keeping people in line when necessary and protecting our community. Ray was not happy when the OPP took over policing in Huntsville. But he soldiered on, became a bylaw officer for the Town, and continued to work the Main Street, greeting everyone, still encouraging the young folk to avoid mischief and in his spare time, collecting the coins from the parking meters!

Ray Porter would literally do anything for Huntsville and that brings me back to Virginia. He is Santa Claus! For decades, the Annual Christmas Parade has seen Santa Ray riding the sleigh with the reindeer. And he was everywhere else as Santa, the schools, the nursing homes, the Legion. Anywhere there were children, there was Santa, all as a volunteer and all for his love of our community.

In more recent years, Ray has acted as a crossing guard, first at Huntsville Public School and then at the High School, where he was the day he suffered his stroke. Luckily, he had driven home and poured his wife Bev a cup of tea before he was stricken. The kids love Ray and Ray loves them. They were a special part of each other’s day.

Never too old to put your arm around Santa (with Grant Nickalls)

Never too old to put your arm around Santa (with Grant Nickalls)

I know Ray well because he and Bev for many years, lived next door to close friends of ours, Marion and Bill Nickalls. All of us often gathered at Chez Nickalls on many occasions, some of them not for public comment! The Nickall’s kids all love Ray Porter and refer to him as ‘Uncle P”. Grant Nickalls, he of stage, screen and television fame, appears in a photo with ‘Santa’ in this commentary.

Ray Porter is a stalwart pillar in our community. He is gentle, friendly and respectful. When I was Mayor, he would salute when he saw me in public, to my embarrassment. And if Ray Porter were on the street when a funeral possession went by, he would stop, take off his hat and stand at attention. That is the kind of guy he is.

No doubt, Ray’s life will change now. He has many challenges ahead. But he is a fighter and I am sure that he knows that there are hundreds upon hundreds of people in Huntsville who are cheering him on and wishing him the very best. After all, everybody loves Santa Claus.

32 Comments

  1. We and our grown children are devastated about this news. For our Grandchildren, “mum’s the word”.
    Love, hugs and prayers go to Ray and Bev.

    • I remember Ray as a young man who was a crossing guard at the post office with bubble gum bazooka Joe’s for the kids I wish him a speedy recovery and if you ever need a helping hand just let me know it would be my pleasure to help in any way

  2. Ray always called me happy. Lots of fun times with Ray Porter. He made all of us feel special. Thanks Ray, get well soon xoxo

  3. Wendy |& Dan McConnell on

    We too, are devastated by this news, Santa Ray has been coming to our house every Christmas for the past 36 years, much to the delight of my children and now grand-children. Ray is a ” tradition”, both in our home and in this entire community. Here is wishing Ray all the best for a complete recovery….We are praying for you Ray!!
    Dan & Wendy

  4. Hugh , you and I have not agreed on many things it seems the past number of years, however I must say your comments re our mutual friend Ray Porter are right on. The most respectfull man you could ever find and a man who is loved by all of Huntsville. We all should take time to wish Ray all the best

  5. Ken & Chris Thompson on

    We have very fond memories of Ray. He is a real gem.
    Truly wishing him a speedy recovery.
    Sincerely,
    Chris and Ken Thompson

  6. Lee Anne Nickalls Secord on

    Our Uncle P is a man among men! He has been in our lives and our children’s lives forever. He is and always will be our family. We send him the strength that he has shown us. Love and prayers.

  7. I am so sorry to hear about this. My thoughts go out to Ray and his wife. Ray has always been a true gentleman and I feel like that has had an influence on me as I went to HHS. If I had the ability to get to North Bay easily I’d go in a heart beat. May he have a swift recovery and that I can see him sometime when I back home from school.

  8. Grace Danforth on

    Huntsville High School student here 🙂 from grades 9 through 11 I was greeted and escorted across the street safely by a very kind gentleman who definitely enjoyed his job!
    Hope to see you back at it soon Ray

  9. Rebecca Saunders on

    Ray Porter was my biggest supporter when I became the dog catcher for the town of Huntsville .. Showing the trick of the ‘3 on the tree’ and the transmission issue .. Mr. Porter will will always hold a special place in my heart .. I would like to wish him well !
    Rebecca Saunders

  10. My daughter is in grade 12 this year. She came to tears when she heard the news. She commented every time she saw him on the corner when we drop her off for school, that he was special. “He takes off his hat for the girls when he cross the road Mom”, she told me… “It’s because he is a true gentleman”. They are more rare everyday, but when you see them you need to point them out to her generation so she knows who the gems really are. I don’t think he meant to teach shivelry to high school kids, but they noticed. I sincerely hope he stays strong and gets better soon.

  11. Ray Porter”Mr.Porter”, as I always address him whenever we meet. I have missed his morning wave intensely. Mr.Porter is a classy gentleman and is one in a million. I truly appreciate the memories I have as a child when he would arrive after Christmas dinner at my Grandmother’s house (Norine Donaldson), of course dressed as Santa to have us take a seat to dole out presents. Many times the sweaters that Grandma would have in side of them would most likely win awards at office parties now 😉 What a man!! My prayers and thoughts are with you Mr.Porter to make a strong recovery. You are truly a local hero to my family and myself. THANKYOU and I hope to see you again soon.

  12. This man lives his life intentionally!!! He has taught more to the kids that he crosses then most will ever ever know. I have kids I work with at HHS and so often his name comes up! I work with YWCA and run programs with young men and woman in our boys Quest and Girls choice programs and could share many many stories where he affected so many lives!! Can someone please tell me how I can connect with him?

  13. Ray is such a gentle man!! have known Ray and Bev for years and he is always the same and was Santa at our house for years every year!! Prayers go out to Ray and Bev at this time. Ray get well Soon!!!

  14. We too noticed and appreciated that Mr. Porter always removed his hat and had a friendly “Good Morning” for the students. He showed respect and set an example for every person crossing that road. We felt blessed that our daughters started every morning with kindness. Our family wishes a speedy recovery to Mr. Porter.

    • Awe sorry this has happened to Ray. Such a special man! All the children and teenagers that he knew yet it doesn’t matter how old you got he never seemed to forget a face. This is one person to me who stands out as such a very kind and gentle soul.

  15. Every time I saw Ray, I would ask myself; “Is he going to do it? Is he going to take off his hat, nod his head when I drive by?” And he always did and I drove away with a smile. What a noble gentleman. I’m sending you much love. “Thank you for always being you, Mr. Porter!”

  16. I don’t know if this story is true or not but I hope it is. Somewhere way back I heard that the town council discussed a motion about censuring Ray for not giving out enough parking tickets as the bylaw officer. When council adjourned every councillor and the mayor found a parking ticket on their car. The matter was never raised again. Get well Ray.

  17. My girls go to HHS and I know they are upset to not have Ray crossing the kids everyday. He is a true gentleman tipping his hat to the ladies. I know he will be missed by the students while he is unable to do the crossing job. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  18. Trisha Pendrith on

    To add to the well and richly deserved accolades for Ray: he was not only the kindest, and most respectful of gentlemen with people. He loved animals as well. When I lived across and down Fairy Avenue from Ray, my old yellow lab Jenny, who had trouble walking very far because of arthritis, would run amazingly quickly down and across the street whenever she saw Ray.,. she loved him and the attention he gave her…not to mention he always had a pocketful of dog treats for Huntsville’s pooches.

  19. Sending you good well wishes Ray! You are the best Santa around! Removing your hat for every female student shows you have the utmost respect!! Hats off to you Ray!! Get well soon Ray!! Dave and Carol Wight

  20. Sorry to hear about Ray. He goes back a long way and we have always enjoyed his friendliness.
    We wish him and his family lots of strength and of course a speedy recovery to Ray.

  21. I first met Santa Ray at an OPP kids Christmas party many years ago. Then in 1992 we had our own little one to bring to the party. Bonnie was 5 days old when Santa Ray held her on his knee. You could hardly see her through his beard. Many years later Ray escorted Bonnie across the street on her way to high school. This past summer she married, and her dad presented her with the teddy bear that has never left her bed since Santa Ray gave it to her all those years ago. Thank you for all you have done Ray, and we wish nothing but healthy days ahead. Blessings, Bob and Teresa Gray

  22. When I hadn’t seen Ray at the HHS crosswalk I was afraid something was wrong but hoping he was just on holidays. Our family’s love, thoughts and prayers are all with you Ray and Bev.

  23. I was so sad to hear about Ray Porter. He is one of the most loved people in the town of Huntsville. He always tipped his hat to me as well as my young daughter; a true gentlemen. Over the years raising my daughter, we had attended many Christmas functions where Ray was always Santa and he was the best Santa, always made my daughter smile , always took the time to talk with her as well as myself. I recall growing up waving to Santa in the annual Christmas parades. Yes, that’s right, the same Santa my daughter grew up enjoying. He is an outstanding man, respect for everyone, he even came to my place of work at my request on short notice at that, to handout candy canes to the children, and they loved him so much. He has kept our children safe, always helped and cared for the elderly, we wish you all the best Ray, take care.

  24. Ray is a local institution, one of the reasons this place is so special. Godspeed Ray, and a complete recovery!! ❤️

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