|Published in SD Voice & Viewpoint
Written by Vira Williams
Betty Mae Peters Porter was born in New York City on November 17, 1926 to Agnes Cully and Charles I. Peters. She was an only child. Betty grew up in the “Sugar Hill” area of New York City where she attended George Washington High School. Always an organizer and socialite, Better and her life time friend, Marilyn “Mickey” Sullivan formed and belonged to a club during their childhood called the “149 Street Queens.”
Her mother, Agnes was a well known seamstress and fashion designer. Her clients included Marian Anderson, Betty Davis, Barbara Rush, Joan Crawford and other celebrities. Betty often modeled in her mother’s fashion shows in New York City.
Betty was an excellent student. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in English an Journalism from New York University in 1947. Her skills and clever talents in writing were evident in her unique holiday letters received by friends and relatives. Betty and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where her Aunt Zara Cully Brown was an actress, also known as “Mother Jefferson” in the television sitcom “The Jeffersons” (starring Sherman Hemsley and Isabelle Sanford).
While in Los Angeles, Betty received her California Credential from Los Angeles State College, and attended Pepperdine University, where she received her Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education. Betty became very popular and active in the social and political circles of the Los Angeles Community. Betty taught at Rosewood Elementary School and later founded the Friendship Guild where she was President. This was an elite organization of women who remained Betty’s dearest friends throughout her life.
In 1957, Betty met and married the late Dr. Walter J. Porter. They moved to San Diego, CA in 1969, and became very active in the field of education, musical and civic affairs. They also became the proud parents of two loving children. Betty taught classes for the Gifted & Talented students at the elementary school level in the San Diego City Schools for many years, retiring in 1992. She was an avid reader, and an excellent cook. A “gathering at the Porter household was always a special treat. She was always supportive of “Wally’s” numerous activities as she shared forty-four memorable years with him until his death in 2001. She also enjoyed spending time with her seven grandchildren.
Betty was a member of the San Diego Tema Sister Society, the African Art Committee, the chapel of awareness in Encinitas and was an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Silver Star,(Epsilon Xi Omega Chapter). Betty was a breast cancer survivor who tried to impress on others the importance of yearly exams. She suffered a massive stroke on Christmas Eve, which took her life.
Betty Porter leaves to mourn two children, Marshall Porter of Houston, TX,. Yvette Porter-Moore of Spring Valley, CA,. Seven grandchildren, Keith Porter, Vanessa Moore, Michael Moore, Victoria Porter of San Diego, Candice Porter, Kyle Porter & Kayla Porter of Houston, Tx., and a host of family members and friends. We will miss her great sense of humor and her infectious laugh. If you look in the sky, you will see two bright, new stars-Betty and Walter porter continuing their eternal party together.
The “Celebration of Lie Services,” will be held, Saturday, January 24, 2004 from 4:00pm-7:00pm at the South Crest Arts Cultural Center, 4120 Alpha Street, San Diego, CA 92113.
In lieu of flowers & cards, donation can be sent to the Walter J. Porter Educational & Community Foundation, 1314 Sangamon Avenue, Spring Valley, CA 91977.
Betty Mae Porter
educator, writer and civic activist
As a dual English and journalism major at New York University in the late 1940s, she had visions of writing for a newspaper. But the racial barriers of the era made it difficult to find a job, said her daughter, Yvette Porter-Moore.
Mrs. Porter turned to elementary education instead, beginning a career that brought her to the San Diego Unified School District in 1969. Before retiring in 1992, she had taught at four schools in the city’s gifted and talented education program.
She died of complications from a stroke Jan. 5 at San Diego Hospice, her daughter said. Mrs. Porter was 77.
A writer for much of her life, Mrs. Porter impressed family and friends with her language skills and her vivid letters, which became a holiday tradition. She had started compiling her memoirs before her death, recording her life story in notes and audio tapes.
“It’s something I might finish as a family project,” her daughter said.
Along with her husband, fellow educator Walter J. Porter, Mrs. Porter was active in several community organizations. Her husband, who died in August 2001, had been dean of the Mid-City Continuing Education Center.
An elementary school bearing his name is scheduled to open in 2005 in southeastern San Diego, his daughter said.
Proud of her African-Amerian heritage, Mrs. Porter served on the African Arts Committee of the San Diego Museum of Art and was active in the San Diego-Tema Sister City Society. The latter was formed to adopt Tema, Ghana, as an African sister city to San Diego.
Mrs. Porter‘s memberships included the Episilon Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
In April, Mrs. Porter was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that had killed her mother. Through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, she regained her health.
“She said she wanted to spend the rest of her life promoting cancer awareness and encouraging women to get mammograms,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Porter, a Del Cerro resident for more than 30 years, was born in New York City.
Growing up in affluent Sugar Hill in northern Manhattan, she co-founded a social club, “149th Street Queens.” Her mother, Agnes Peters, designed fashions for a celebrity clientele that included Marian Anderson, Bette Davis, Barbara Rush and Joan Crawford.
Mrs. Porter often modeled her mother’s fashions in New York City before moving to Los Angeles. Although her roots were on the East Coast, she had an aunt in Los Angeles, Zara Cully Brown, an actress who played the role of the feisty Mother Jefferson in “The Jeffersons” TV series.
While living in Los Angeles, Mrs. Porter earned a California teaching credential at Los Angeles State College and a master’s degree in multicultural education at Pepperdine University.
She began her teaching career at Rosewood Elementary School in Los Angeles. After moving to San Diego, she taught at various times at Encanto Elementary, Stockton Elementary, Sunset View Elementary and Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary.
Survivors include her daughter, Yvette Porter-Moore of Spring Valley; son, Marshall Porter of Houston; and seven grandchildren.
A celebration of life is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Southcrest Arts and Cultural Center, 4120 Alpha St., San Diego.
Donations are suggested to the Walter J. Porter Educational & Community Foundation, 1314 Sangamon Ave., Spring Valley, CA 91977.