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Heritage of the Valley

Thu., Nov. 8, 2007

For almost eight decades, Bert Porter of Spokane Valley has lived within a mile of where he was born.

Other than going off to Washington State University in Pullman for a degree in pharmacy, Porter, 78, has made the Valley his home.

It seems only natural he is interested in preserving the history of the area where he has spent most of his life.

Porter will be honored on Saturday with the Heritage Preservation Award by the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum with during its Third Annual Tea and History Party. The Porter side of the family tree settled in Veradale almost a century ago; his mother’s family, the Rhodes, arrived in 1924.

“My dad’s family came here in 1908,” Porter said. “They lived on Evergreen Road that was named after my grandmother’s place because there were so many evergreen trees there.”

After Porter’s parents married in 1926, they moved into a white wood-framed house and started farming 80 acres south of Sprague Avenue between Progress and Adams roads.

“Dad lucked out for a small farmer,” Porter said.

“He had what were considered top-quality veggies and most of his produce went to local restaurants,” Porter said.

Today, the Sullivan Park Care Center on Fourth Avenue is built on the former Porter farm land.

Porter became a supporter of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum before it officially opened its doors.

“Chuck King and I met Bert in the summer of 2004,” recalled Jayne Singleton, the museum’s executive director.

Porter walked in the back door of the museum while Singleton and King were renovating the building.

“We were full of passion and purpose, and probably covered with sheetrock dust holding hammers and measuring tapes,” Singleton said.

“Bert saw past the ‘beginning framework’ of where we were and knew where we could go,” she said.

Porter told Singleton about his parents, how the Valley looked in earlier times and the importance of keeping track of the region’s history.

“From that first meeting we knew that he was a wonderful example of the sense of purpose, sense of belonging and sense of community that we wanted to rekindle in the Valley,” Singleton said. “That was the beginning of a great friendship.”

Each year since the museum opened, a heritage award has been presented to someone who has contributed to the understanding of Spokane Valley history.

Previous winners were author Florence Boutwell and collector Chuck King.

Boutwell received the first award in 2005 for her work preserving and recording Valley history in her four-volume series, “The Spokane Valley.”

In 2006, King, a lifelong Spokane Valley resident, was honored for his longtime passion of collecting and preserving Valley memorabilia.

Porter was selected because of his commitment to the success of the museum.

“Bert inspired me many times with his belief in what we were trying to establish for the Valley,” Singleton said.

“His gentle guidance and common sense guided me through many challenges. His generosity and support moved the museum forward many times,” she said.

The fundraising Tea and History Party on Saturday costs $12 and includes finger foods, desserts, door prizes, raffles, music by barbershop quartet Grandpa’s Sound and a living history presentation by Lou Carver.

All proceeds from the event will go to underwrite museum activities including three new exhibits opening in time for the holidays.

“On a Wing and a Prayer” will outline the history of aviation in the Valley and at Felts Field.

The “Voice of the Valley” will highlight KZUN, the Valley radio station that broadcasted for approximately three decades beginning in the early 1950s.

An interactive exhibit on the “Lone Fir School House” will capture the one-room school house experience. The original 1894 school house will be moved onto the museum property for renovation next summer.

“We’re just starting our third year and everything is popping,” Singleton said.

“We’ve booked school field trips and Scout troops,” she said. “Every day we are open, people are coming in. It’s almost too much, but there is no stopping it.”

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