A 79-year-old retired accountant who disappeared Thursday night from his daughter's Perry Hall home is being sought by Baltimore County police, who fear the man may intend to take his own life.
The family of Charles Lewis Porter told police that Mr. Porter has not been seen since just before midnight Thursday. Depressed over his deteriorating health, Mr. Porter slipped out of the home when he knew the other occupants were preparing for bed and drove off in his car, his family said.
Family members told police that they fear he wanted to end his life because he no longer wished to be a burden on his daughter and son-in-law, who have cared for him the last six years.
"When he came home from World War II, he refused to attend college on the GI Bill," said his daughter, Susan Meckel, as she and other family members sat at a dining room table yesterday, )) waiting for word from the police.
"He said his country owed him nothing. He was probably thinking the same thing when he left us. He was very independent, very proud. He didn't want to be a burden on anyone anymore."
Besides a kidney ailment, Mr. Porter suffers from severe dental and swallowing problems and requires a liquid diet. Mr. Porter, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall, has withered to 110 pounds, his family said.
"He had suddenly become worn emotionally," said Steven Meckel, Mr. Porter's son-in-law. "He had secluded himself in his room for three days before he walked out. He hadn't eaten during that time."
A public health nurse who made frequent visits to tend to Mr. Porter's medical needs detected an emotional slippage in her patient. She asked him recently "if he wanted to live," Mrs. Meckel said.
Sgt. Jack Markert of the White Marsh Precinct said police have searched the area surrounding Mr. Porter's home on the ground and with a helicopter. Maryland Natural Resources Police were alerted to check the nearby Gunpowder Falls State Park, and state police were asked to be on the lookout for his car.
"After interviewing the family, we fear he might be a danger to himself," Sergeant Markert said. "And the temperature is so cold, Mr. Porter would not last long outside."
Police said Mr. Porter was wearing an oversized gray coat, brown pants and a brown hat with ear flaps. He was driving a blue 1994 Saturn with Maryland license tags SAL-630. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 887-2198.
Mr. Porter grew up in Forest Park, worked on an ice wagon and graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.
He went into the Army at the outbreak of World War II and was assigned to the horse cavalry.
"Look at him at Fort Riley," said his sister, Clare Gere. She showed pictures of a young Mr. Porter in jodhpurs and boots. In one, he stood in the saddle of a galloping horse in the way a trick rider would in a rodeo.
In the Pacific theater, however, Mr. Porter trudged as an infantryman into battles in the Leyte Gulf, New Britain and New Guinea.
At Leyte, he was considered missing in action for several days until he linked up with friendly forces.
After the war, he got married and worked as an accountant for Olin Chemical Co. in Curtis Bay for nearly 30 years. He retired in the mid-1970s.
He and his wife, the former Irma Brooks, had two children, the daughter with whom he lives and a son, Jeff. Mr. Porter's wife died in 1982 and he lived by himself until he moved in with Mrs. Meckel.
"When he could get around, he would drive to the VFW or American Legion posts and be with his friends," the daughter said. "He had lots of buddies there and they would talk like guys that age would, the battles and stuff . . . he never talked about the Pacific with us."
Ms. Gere said her brother left behind in his bedroom several uncashed Social Security and retirement checks and a bottle of prescription sleeping pills.
"He could be headed anywhere," his sister said. "But I have this very bad feeling he's up to no good."