Letter: Captain Tom leaves runway for last time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Captain Tom W. Porter left this earth for the last time recently. A good and special person is no longer with us.

We both grew up “on the fringes” of Rowan Mills, and I had the good fortune to know him for quite a number of years. I was much the better for having done so. We often recalled how tough things were during those years, but we both were firm in declaring we would never be willing to swap these years for any other circumstances.

Tom was a living example of never giving up. Despite having survived a plane crash “early on,” despite not having any military training or any formal post-high school education and through sheer effort and determination, he succeeded in becoming a well-respected pilot/captain for both Piedmont Airlines and US Air — a “poster child” for “pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps.”

One last point, Tom was often perceived as a “tough guy.” Nothing was further from the truth. He had a big heart, and I saw the effects of that by the people he helped. I tried to thank him for those efforts and what he meant to me by introducing him to my well-known friend and woodcarver E.L. Setzer of Granite Quarry, who was always interested in all things relating to aviation. Tom had an interest in all things made and carved out of wood.

Their friendship blossomed to the point that Tom would never install his Setzer-carved totem outside to be damaged. Tom Porter left us on May 29 — a good and special person. The last words that this “tough guy” said to me in our final phone conversation the week before his passing were both surprising and much appreciated: “I love you.”

Yes, Captain Tom has left the runway. Suzie and I shall miss him dearly.

— Charlie Walters