They only retired from their services at the Douglas Library last October, but already Wilbur and Maralyn Porter are greatly missed by the community residents and library staff they served for 40 years.
Wilbur became a member of the Library Trustees in 1967, replacing his father, former First Selectman Winthrop Strong Porter, upon Win’s untimely death. Wilbur soon developed a reputation for being a quiet, steady leader, as well as “the answer guy” when it came to anything involving maintenance at the library.
“Wilbur is the one we depended on for maintenance issues, and solving maintenance problems,” said Trustee Elaine Wallace. “Now we’ve got to learn about heat, lights and air conditioning, and who we have to call to get things fixed.”
“I’ll always think of Wilbur as ‘Keeper of the Keys; he’s irreplaceable,” added George Blain, current Trustees President. “The Board recently voted unanimously to dedicate the lower level conference room as the “Hilding-Porter Board Room” in honor of Wilbur’s and Alberta Hilding’s decades of service to the Library.”
Former Trustees President, Norm Dorval, added: “Wilbur and Maralyn have a true respect for the library’s history. I remember we used to have heavy slate for sidewalks; the time finally came when we had to rip it out for safety reasons, replacing it with concrete. Wilbur moved the slate to his farm to preserve it. Once the building project was complete, he moved a heavy piece of slate back; it’s sitting in front of the library fireplace today."
The Porters are especially proud of their involvement in the expansion project in 1997. One challenge was providing a makeshift library for residents during the construction phase. “To achieve that goal, the library moved temporarily across the street [to what is now Alliance Bank]; it was Wilbur who brought in Porter Farm trucks to help out. He personally moved boxes and boxes of books,” said Dorval.
Residents miss Maralyn, who retired from her library clerk’s position late last year. Helen Reardon, President of the Douglas Library Friends, emphasized that “Maralyn met everyone with a smile and with kindness, as if you were part of her family. She made coming to the library a special occasion.”
Maralyn frequently shared her “to-die-for” banana bread with co-workers. “Maralyn was a 'peach' and loved by the staff and the public. I miss her dearly. She started as a volunteer and became a very viable staff member,” said Anne Shaw Burgan, now a resident of Toms River, New Jersey, who served as Library Director from 1992 until her retirement last year.
The Porters, often described as “low-key” for their calm approach to problem-solving and decision-making, are also known for their adventurous spirit.
In their life journey, they have traveled around the world, including a 1986 trip to Tahiti. They also go to Boston at least once a year to see a Red Sox game, according to Alberta Hilding. Remembering the time he and Wilbur went to Fenway Park to see a Yankees-Red Sox game, Dorval chuckles, “We were just seats away from George Steinbrenner, and Wilbur walks right up and introduces himself.”
“We put on a play in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Library Society,” says Gary Horton, 1997 Library Building Committee Chairman. “It was so funny. We all gave stiff performances and flubbed our lines, but Wilbur perfectly played the role of Dr. Charles Douglas! He performed like a professional actor.”
Wallace remembers that once there was a Model-T for sale, and Wilbur’s daughters encouraged him to buy it. “But what he really wanted was a Corvette! Under that mild-mannered exterior lies the heart of a true race car driver,” she laughed.
“You can't replace positive, good, kind and knowledgeable people of any age. Both Maralyn and Wilbur will always be missed at the Douglas Library,” said Reardon.