Remembering a Community Champion

John Newton Porter, a foundation member of the Kapiti US Marines Trust and tireless community advocate died earlier this year. He was 86. Allie Webber, friend and fellow Kapiti US Marines trustee, remembers a man deeply rooted in community values.

John Porter or “J.P.”, as he was known, was a third-generation Paekākāriki resident who had vivid and colourful school-boy memories of the US Marines encamped in and around “the village”. His knowledge of history and passion for preserving and re-telling the Marines’ story has informed much of the Trust’s work.

John was highly regard by all the organisations he served and was respected for his hard work, integrity, depth of local knowledge, willingness to share information and courage to take a stand on issues of importance in the community. 

He had a significant leadership role in many organisations including:  the Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Committee and in Surf Lifesaving New Zealand. He was on the Paekākāriki School Committee, a member of the Paekākāriki Community Board, the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park, the Kapiti U.S.Marines Trust, the Guardians of Whareroa Farm — spear-heading the campaign to save Whareroa Farm and keep the land in public ownership.

He was a regular contributor to the Paekakariki Xpressed and wrote fascinating, history stories that kept the community in touch with its past and helped it to make good decisions about its future.

“He knew the culture of the village; the relationships between the community and its local government and the history of issues, some going back generations.  He recognised the contribution of the hundreds of community organisations some formal and some not, and could accurately recount who did what, when and why.” 

— Former Editor of the Paekakariki Xpressed, Don Polly

KUSMT Chair, Richard Benge said John Porter was regarded with esteem and affection by fellow trustees – he would be sadly missed. 

KUSMT Deputy Chair, Anthony Dreaver said: “John had a unique gift for observation and story-telling and his willingness to share every day history had kept the ethos of Paekākāriki alive for hundreds who were willing to listen.” 

Former Trust Chair Jenny Rowan said John was “a superb guardian for Paekakariki and always had our best interests at heart.” He was presented with a Civic Award by the Kapiti Coast District Council for his services to the Village during the Paekākāriki Floods.

Dr Ann Evans said John’s contribution to Whareroa Farm was very significant. Without his efforts, the farm would probably not exist. 

Former Secretary to the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park, Denise Davis said John Porter had a lengthy involvement in the affairs of the park and was always prepared to stand-up and challenge people on the issues of the day.  He was a fantastic advocate for the human and natural history in the park.” 

The Trust is coordinating a campaign to raise $3,000 to buy a memorial seat in the shelter of a grove of trees at the US Marines Memorial site off Whareroa Road in Queen Elizabeth Park in honour of a tireless community champion.

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