Richard B. Porter, 52, taught music in Anne Arundel schools

April 11, 2000|By Kate Shatzkin and Frederick N. Rasmussen | Kate Shatzkin and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Richard B. Porter, a longtime music teacher in Anne Arundel County schools and organist at a West Baltimore church, died Saturday of bone marrow cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. The Dickeyville resident was 52.

Born and raised in Linthicum, Mr. Porter graduated from Andover High School in 1966 and earned a bachelor's degree in music education from Western Maryland College in 1970. He earned a master's degree in music from the University of Michigan.

Family members said he was very musical as a child and by age 5 was giving piano recitals.

An accomplished pianist and organist, Mr. Porter taught music in the Anne Arundel County school system for nearly 30 years, beginning his career at Brooklyn Park High School. He taught at Old Mill High School for 21 years, where he met one of his best friends, social studies teacher Nadine Dow.

"We spent every lunch period together," Ms. Dow said. "Nobody was a stranger to him. He would engage you in conversation for hours. He had such compassion for others and life."

Mr. Porter taught most recently at Arundel High School, before falling ill nine months ago.

He was organist for West Baltimore United Methodist Church for 24 years until retiring last summer because of illness.

"He was extremely faithful and talented and brought a joyful spirit to his work," said the Rev. Ann R. Laprade, pastor of the church since 1990.

"He really had the spirit for being a church organist, and he knew what style was needed at the right moment. He didn't play from page to eye but rather from a deep inner spirit," said Jean Higdon of Catonsville, the church's music director since 1947.

A versatile musician whom Mrs. Higdon described as "serene and calm," Mr. Porter could "play jazz and rhythm as well as the `Hallelujah Chorus,' " she said.

Because he felt a deep commitment to the church's congregation, he declined higher-paying offers to play elsewhere, said Ms. Laprade.

He also was known as a man who enjoyed a challenge.

"He had a real spirit of adventure about him. For years, he dared me to go hot-air ballooning with him, and we finally did it," recalled Ms. Laprade.

"We left from Mount Airy and sailed along at 1,500 feet before we came down in a Carroll County farmer's field. Luckily, they were United Methodists, too, and we celebrated with champagne," she said, laughing.

While a patient at Manor Care Nursing Home in Towson, Mr. Porter continued playing.

"His hands hurt so badly, but he still managed to play `Alley Cat' perfectly for me and the other residents who were brought in to listen," said Beverly Burton, an aunt who lives in Ellicott City.

For years, Mr. Porter attended the Fellowship of United Methodist Musicians Conference. He also enjoyed traveling and collecting arts and crafts.

Mr. Porter was a member of Emmarts United Methodist Church of Woodlawn.

A memorial service has not been scheduled.

Mr. Porter is survived by his parents, Alan and Virginia Porter of Linthicum; and special friend Gary Lushbaugh of Perry Hall.

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