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.
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.