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Obituaries

David M. Porter, a retired lawyer, car enthusiast and accomplished sailor, dies

David M. Porter helped establish a world-class car show, the Baltimore Concours d’Elegance, in 1989.

David M. Porter, a retired state Department of Business and Economic Development lawyer who had lifetime passions for photography, collecting classic cars and motorcycles, and sailing the Chesapeake Bay, died of Alzheimer’s disease Sept. 21 at Symphony Manor, a Roland Park assisted living and memory support facility. The longtime Glyndon resident was 74.

“As a lawyer, he was brilliant, and one of the, if not the smartest person, I ever met, and I don’t have to qualify that,” said Randi Reichel, a University of Maryland School of Law classmate, longtime friend, and co-worker in the Office of the Maryland Attorney General. “He was a Renaissance person who brought much to the table and was such a fabulous attorney. Anyone who worked with him was lucky to have had him there.”

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David Maydole Porter, son of Howard Newton Porter, a classics professor at Yale and Columbia universities, and Martha Harmon Porter, a Head Start volunteer, was born Jan. 17, 1948, in New Haven, Connecticut, and was raised in a rambling Victorian house in nearby Guilford, Connecticut.

He spent summers on Chebeague Island, Maine, and at Camp Kabeyun, a boys camp in New Hampshire, that had been founded by his grandfather.

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After graduating in 1965 from the Taft School in Waterbury, Connecticut, Mr. Porter embarked on a rather circuitous and unconventional academic route in the late 1960s.

He matriculated at Yale, dropped out twice, took classes at Columbia, traveled to California with a band of hippies, and studied at various colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area.

After living on a dairy farm in upstate New York, he eventually moved to Baltimore and enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, where he completed his final two years of undergraduate studies, graduating in 1976 with a 4.0 average, said his wife of 44 years, the former Mary Ellen Beckelheimer.

The couple met in Baltimore. Ms. Porter, then a Goucher College student, performed at Johns Hopkins with her band. While there, she visited a neo-Italianate building that housed the Johns Hopkins University News-Letter, the student newspaper.

“That’s how I met David, who was a News-Letter photographer developing pictures, and he took me in the darkroom,” Ms. Porter said in a telephone interview.

The couple fell in love and married in 1978. Mr. Porter later went on to become a founding member of the old City Paper.

Mr. Porter then took a job working as an auto mechanic for two years before enrolling in 1979 at the University of Maryland School of Law, where he earned his degree in 1982.

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He began his legal career in the tax department at what was then Piper & Marbury, now DLA Piper, and made a grand entrance his first day riding on the back of his motorcycle dressed in a conservative business suit and tie.

Mr. Porter then joined the Maryland Attorney General’s Office in 1989, and after a few years, took a position with the state Department of Licensing and Regulation until he was named deputy to Margie H. Muller, who was state banking commissioner, and then returned to the State Attorney General’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Until retiring in 2016, Mr. Porter spent the last 15 years of his career at state Department of Business and Economic Development. There he kept a pair of binoculars in his office at the World Trade Center on Pratt Street, where he observed the daily maritime traffic entering and departing the harbor.

Mr. Porter’s intellectual curiosity and interests were wide-ranging. He was endlessly fascinated by history, engineering and astronomy. He was a folk music devotee, and some of the artists he revered were Emmylou Harris, Dire Straits, Enya and the Grateful Dead.

His bedside table was seldom without editions of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Dunnett and Patrick O’Brian, which he had read multiple times, Ms. Porter said.

He learned to sail when he was a kid spending summers at Camp Kabeyun and enjoyed cruising the bay with family and friends aboard the Callisto, a 31-foot Niagara class sailboat. Two nights of the week were devoted to sailing. He crewed in the Annapolis Wednesday night races and raced with downtown Baltimore Sailing Center on Thursday evenings.

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“He was a master sail-trimmer, constantly tweaking the main and the jib to gain the slightest advantage,” his wife said.

Barbara Barrett and her husband had been sailing friends for more than 40 years.

“David was a great sailor and very knowledgeable about physics and the shape of the sail to get speed out of the boat,” Ms. Barrett said.

“David owned more cars and motorcycles than his family can recall, ranging from his first, a Porsche 356, to his last, a GTI, with many Porsches, BMWs and Alfa Romeos in between,” Ms. Porter wrote in a biographical profile of her husband.

Mr. Porter enjoyed watching auto races in person at Summit Point, West Virginia, and Watkins Glen in upstate New York, and the weekly Formula One races on television.

“I will always treasure our trip as teenagers to Watkins Glen as teenagers and the many evenings spent in the garage staring at axles and engines and talking about cars,” said Austin Brown, a cousin.

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Mr. Porter was a longtime member of the Capital Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club, where he had been secretary and had organized two national conventions in Hunt Valley and Frederick. He was a founding board member and helped establish a world-class car show, the Baltimore Concours d’Elegance, in 1989.

To celebrate his law school graduation, Mr. Porter and his wife traveled through England and Scotland aboard a red 1982 BMW R65 that had been special-ordered from Germany.

“We shared three wonderful weeks visiting ancestral castles and enduring the inevitable, bone-drenching Scottish rainfalls,” Ms. Porter wrote of the experience.

The bike was the first of many Ducatism BMWs, and Laverdas, that “resided in the Porter garage,” his wife said.

Mr. Porter always had his camera at the ready and was “always the face behind the camera at family gatherings, ready with dry and witty remarks, always well-timed,” a family member wrote in a tribute.

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He was a gifted conversationalist whose conversations were fueled by his intense curiosity of the world and events that swirled around him.

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“He was the quiet guy in the corner who was always paying attention to what others were saying and what was going on,” Ms. Reichel recalled. “And when he had something to say, it was a hundred percent prescient or hysterically funny.”

He doted on his two daughters, teaching them how to drive cars with standard transmissions. He accompanied his two granddaughters to riding lessons and woke up at 4:30 a.m. Saturday mornings to attend horse shows. He also took them to rehearsals of the Peabody Children’s Chorus and guitar lessons.

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A celebration-of-life gathering will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 12 at Gilman School at 5407 Roland Ave.

In addition to his wife, who is associate director of development in the alumni office at Gilman, Mr. Porter is survived by a brother, Michael Porter, of Chebeague Island, Maine; two daughters, Maggie Geraghty of Stevenson and Grace Porter of Austin, Texas; a sister, Martha Haeseler of Guilford, Connecticut; and two granddaughters.

For the record

This article has been updated to include David Porter's brother in the list of surviving family members. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error


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