If you can’t reach Eleanor Porter by phone, it is likely that she is out for the day participating in some sort of activity offered at St. John’s Meadows. “We have wonderful programs here and I participate in almost all of them,” smiles Eleanor. From chair exercise to card games you can almost always bet Eleanor Porter is a face in the crowd. And don’t forget the cocktail parties, where Eleanor enjoys her drink of choice – gin and tonic.
Eleanor grew up in a small town in Lancaster, New Hampshire where she learned firsthand how to bare the cold weather. A competitive speed skater, Eleanor enjoyed the thrill of the fast lane. “I had lots of blue ribbons,” she said humbly. Following high school, Eleanor decided to join the Navy as a nurse during World War II. She was stationed in Newport, RI, which she dubbed as “ritzy” and “wonderful.” “I saw firsthand what war does to young men,” she explained, her sky blue eyes solemn and nostalgic.
After three years in the Navy, Eleanor connected with her childhood sweetheart Ralph, who served in the Air Force. The couple made their way back to Lancaster where they got married in the church in which they grew up. Shortly after, Eleanor and Ralph moved to Storrs, CT where they both attended the University of Connecticut on the G.I. Bill. Eleanor pursued nursing while Ralph studied engineering.
Two children and a job offer later, the Porters made their way to Rochester, where Ralph began his career at Kodak. Eleanor and Ralph had two more children and eventually were blessed with six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Eleanor taught at the Unitarian Church as the assistant director of religious education where she met many lifelong friends, one of whom is another Hawthorne resident.
At the young age of 79, Ralph lost his long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Their landmark house with its stained glass windows and slated roof designed by Ward Wellington became too much for Eleanor to handle alone. “I needed to downsize,” she explains. Eleanor moved to Hawthorne a little over six years ago. “I have a lot of good friends here – one of my best friends is Betty Kelly. We eat together at the same table – just the two of us.” In addition to good friends, Eleanor also sees her daughter Susanna weekly. “We go to different places every Saturday for lunch.”
Eleanor describes her experience at Hawthorne as “very positive.” “I never expected to have such wonderful activities,” Eleanor continues, “I can go to anyone with any problem, even the vice president, Paul Bartlett.” At the age of 94, Eleanor admits her friends at Hawthorne and her church have helped shape her longevity and made her life “much more pleasant.” “My mind is clear,” she smiles.