Milton R. Porter, a retired space systems technician and decorated World War II veteran, died Thursday at Millennium Health and Rehabilitation Center in Ellicott City after brain surgery. He was 76.
Born into a family of 11 children in Clayville, Va., he joined the Army in 1944 and became a paratrooper in the 511th Parachute Infantry. A year later, after a combat jump into the battle for Luzon in the Philippines, his unit was ambushed at a Japanese machine-gun emplacement.
Mr. Porter was struck by two .30-caliber bullets, one of which hit his rifle, causing his ammunition clip to explode into his chest and face.
"He lived the rest of his life with the shrapnel still inside him," said a son, Philip Porter of Finksburg. "And now he's taking it with him."
Mr. Porter underwent six months of reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and received the Purple Heart before being discharged later that year. He also received the Philippine Liberation Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star.
After his discharge, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail sorter before joining Bendix Field Engineering Corp. (now Honeywell Corp.) in Columbia in 1948.
Mr. Porter, a longtime Ellicott City resident, took night courses at Catonsville Community College from 1957 to 1960, but his mechanical gifts vaulted him forward in his career at Bendix.
"He could do anything with his hands - electrical, mechanical, carpentry - everything," said his wife of 12 years, the former Anne Johnson. "He was a perfectionist, I guess you'd say, at everything he touched."
Mr. Porter learned electrical engineering on the job, and was positioned to benefit from the computer revolution and the nation's emerging space program. During his 44-year career at Bendix, he helped design, build and operate data systems used to track manned space flights.
He traveled extensively to National Aeronautics and Space Administration tracking stations around the globe, and was proud of his involvement in the Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs.
Mr. Porter was an avid amateur radio operator, and was deeply involved in church life as a deacon, trustee and greeter - first at Temple Baptist Church in Woodlawn and later at Bethel Baptist Church in Ellicott City.
His first wife, the former Virginia Lauterbach, died in 1988.
A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. today at Bethel Baptist Church.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by another son, Timothy Porter of New Port Richey, Fla.; two stepdaughters, Colleen Ann Gooch of Kirksville, Mo., and Lizann Koechling of Murrieta, Calif.; a brother, Clarence Porter of Chester, Va.; 14 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
Memorial contributions may be made to Bethel Baptist Church, 4261 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City 21043.