Obituary for Thomas Porter

Thomas Gene Porter was born April 21, 1929, in Stillwater, Minnesota, to Lawton and Florence (Swanson) Porter.  He was raised in Bayport, graduated from Stillwater High School in 1947, and in 1951, received his BA in Physical Education and minor in Biology from St. Olaf College.  In 1952, he was drafted into the US Army during the Korean Conflict and served in Germany.  Following his honorable discharge he returned to Minnesota and accepted a teaching position in Neenah, Wisconsin.  On December 29, 1954, at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea, Tom married his college sweetheart Gloria Emstad.  After marriage they […]

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Thomas Gene Porter was born April 21, 1929, in Stillwater, Minnesota, to Lawton and Florence (Swanson) Porter.  He was raised in Bayport, graduated from Stillwater High School in 1947, and in 1951, received his BA in Physical Education and minor in Biology from St. Olaf College.  In 1952, he was drafted into the US Army during the Korean Conflict and served in Germany.  Following his honorable discharge he returned to Minnesota and accepted a teaching position in Neenah, Wisconsin.  On December 29, 1954, at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea, Tom married his college sweetheart Gloria Emstad.  After marriage they lived in Neenah until the Fall 0f 1958 when Tom accepted the position with St. Olaf as Assistant Professor of Physical Education for Men.  During his tenure he served as a professor and as a coach of football, hockey, baseball and track & field. He retired in 1991.

Tom was an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church and a former member of the Northfield Rotary Club.  He enjoyed sports, golf, fishing and gardening.  He was a true “history buff” and authored “The Greatest Game – A History of St. Olaf College Football”.  His greatest pleasure came from spending time with his wife and family and spending time with friends and family at Greenstone Cottage on the North Shore.

During his lifetime, Tom created a legacy of honor, honesty, respect and integrity with the young men and women he taught and coached.  The influence he had on others will long endure.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Gloria; 4 children: Mark and wife Jane of Key West, Florida, Todd and wife Jill of Chanhassen, Anne and husband Bob Tessien of St. Louis Park, Laura and husband Eric Engwall of Lakeville; 11 grandchildren: Jacob (Michelle), Nathan (Molly) and Samuel (fiancee Meagan) Porter, Scott (Heather), Rebecca and Margaret Porter, Sarah, Hannah and Emma Tessien, Carl and Anders Engwall; 2 great-grandchildren, Addison and Liesl; his brother-in-law, William (Ingrid) Emstad of Edina; other relatives and friends.  He was preceded in death by his parents and sister Mary Gasser.

Tom passed away peacefully with his wife and children by his side on Thursday morning, January 24, 2013, at the Northfield Hospital, at the age of 83.

A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at 2:00 PM, Tuesday, January 29, 2013, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield with Revs. Steve Swanson & John Quam officiating.   Honorary pall bearers are Jim Dimick, Bill Emstad, Bob Gelle, Dave Hauck, Tim Larsen, Don Sahling and Chuck Lunder (posthumously). Visitation will be 3-7PM Monday, January 28, 2013, in the Black & Gold Room of Buntrock Commons at St. Olaf College.   Visitation will continue at the church on Tuesday one hour prior to the service.

Memorials are preferred to a scholarship fund to be established at St. Olaf College in Tom’s name.

Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home.

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January 29, 2013 - 12:00 AM

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  1. John Ederer

    Tom taught me a lot about football but the most enduring lessens were about family. Rest in Peace, Tom

  2. Pastor McKinley Moore

    I am greatly honored that my life was touched by his. Great lessons in character and manhood. Loved me some coach Porter!

  3. Mike Morrissey

    Tom was so kind to me when I interviewed him on my first broadcast of St.Olaf football and was a true friend.
    You will be missed my friend but never forgotten.

  4. Pastor John Gorder

    Tom’s witness and collegiality at St. Olaf endure. The college, in all aspects of its life, has been strengthened by Coach Porter’s life and work. We remember him with gratitude.

  5. Scott Nelson

    Amazing man!
    The Physical Education Department and coaching staff was filled with “legends” and truely great people. Blessed to have known and been influenced by all.
    and…..Tom Porter
    RIP Coach. You are aleady missed.

  6. Chuck and Geri DeCorsey

    I have fond memories of my connections with Coach Porter, especially while officiating many college football games; he was
    always a highly respected gentleman on and off the field.

    Coach Porter was also our daughter, Pam DeCorsey’s, advisor during
    her years at St. Olaf. They also shared the same birthday, April 21.

    God bless your family and the memorable blessings he brought to all whose lives he touched.

  7. Denny Davis

    Was most fortunate to be coached and mentored by coach at Neenah HS and at
    St Olaf. honest, caring, and humble at all times. “we were lucky…but its
    nice to have a big fullback” was a typical, understated comment.
    There is now a void….but the memories and lessons remain.

  8. Bob Bailey

    Dear Gloria and Family:

    Please rest assured in the fact that Tom touched the lives of so many young men and — in turn — their families. He was a great leader of men, a great coach, and a wonderful example for all of us of what a man should be — competitive, kind, stern where necessary, and always acting with the highest integrity. May God bless you in your sorrow and your joy as you remember a great man. With sympathies and warmest regards. Bob

  9. Lee Mesna

    It makes me want to walk across the football field one last time, crisp morning air, sun-golded leaves on the trees, frosted green sparkling grass, with the Goat at stake–friends, family, coaches’ wives, and just plain folks out for the afternoon game arriving in the stands just in time for
    Porter’s pre-game address: “Just bring the Goat home, boys!” …
    and he did…

  10. Bill Green '77

    Gloria and the Porter family, my condolence at the ‘home going’ of my friend and coach. I am grateful the time we shared on ‘the Hill’; as student/athlete and colleague/staff. It’s been a lesson in life and faith.

    He will be missed, but not forgotten.

    Bill Green ’77

  11. Kathy Schuurman

    I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers in the next days and weeks ahead. Unfortunately, I’m out of town for the next few days and will not be able to attend Tom’s memorial service. I’m sure there will be many others there to help you celebrate his life and the many memories he provided over the years.

    He will be greatly missed by many people on and off the hill. It was such an honor to work with him and you on all those events!

    Peace to you,
    Kathy Schuurman

  12. Tom Mickelson

    A Coach like no other. Coach Porter, (some of us called you “Teeps”), I think of you often. Your low key, quiet leadership style is an approach I have emulated all of my life. I never remember Coach raising his voice (at least not toward me) or using foul language. Handing out programs at the Christmas Concert after retirement – go figure!! He got his point across in the most gentlemanly way possible (although he was occasionally heard to say, “one of you hit him low and the other one hit him high and nail him to the cross.” Kristman, Krossman, Men of the Cross were we!!) You couldn’t mention Tom’s name without his 2 “buds” – Bob and Chuck. Tom was the leader of the three amigos- Tom Porter, Bob Gelle and Chuck Lunder- what a combination and a joy to play for!!

    Gloria – Thank you. Near the end of late summer practice and prior to the beginning of the season, Gloria always brought to the team a trunk load of cool watermelons- appropriate for those hot summer drills!!

    God bless you and your family.

    Tom Mickelson, Football Co- Captain, 1965

  13. Olaf Gunderson

    I am so sad to hear of coach Porters passing. I wish I could see him one more time to thank him for all the kind words of advice and encouragement he offered me at times when I needed them. He was the finest person I’ve ever known. I was blessed to have had him as a coach and a friend. My condolences to Gloria,Mark,Todd,Anne and Laura.
    Ole Gunderson ’72

  14. Patti Thompson Carley

    Tom and Gloria Porter were two very special people to our family. My father,Jerry Thompson, always spoke so highly of them and considered them very special friends. I know that you will all deeply miss him, but I am sure he and dad are having a wonderful renunion. Two great men.

  15. Artley Skenandore

    I extend my condolences to the Family of Coach Porter! Coaches leave their legacy in the memories of those that they encourage to achieve thier goals. Coach Porter’s legacy lives on in the stories, smiles and spirit of so many years of encourageing so many young men to make a positive contribution to thier world. RIP Coach!

  16. Rob Warneke

    Coach Porter was a wonderful role model for me. He showed me that a football player can and should be a gentleman, who plays with sportsmanship, and is humble enough to kneel before God and give thanks for all that he is. “I say there men, if you were smart enough to get into college, then you have a big enough vocabulary so that you don’t need to swear”, and “If you can’t get excited to play football on a beautiful fall day like today, then there is something wrong with you”. Coach, I may not have been around much since I graduated, but you have been with me ever since. Thank you. To the Porter family, I am so sorry for your loss, you are in our prayers.

    Rob Warneke ’90

  17. Nancy(Thompson) Zavodny

    Dear Gloria and family, Have some very fond memories of visiting you and Tom. As a little kid it was fun being with family at games in Northfield. My Dad(Jerry Thompson) enjoyed Tom’s friendship over the years. Peace, Love Laughter as my Dad would say. Sincerely, Nancy Zavodny

  18. Chris Sackrison '84

    I count myself among the lucky few who saw the role reversal of Coaches Porter and Dimmick between football and baseball seasons: From serious in their respective head coaching roles, to lighthearted and full of wit as an assistant coach. It is one of my fondest memories of St. Olaf athletics and I am thankful to have played for and gotten to know both sides of Coach Porter. Thoughts are with you Anne, Bob and the Porter family.

  19. Tom Fiebiger

    My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Porter family. Coach Porter was a quiet star who was just one of the really good guys. He taught me many life lessons in the way he listened to and respected his team of boys – who were all trying so hard to become men. He helped us in that journey, often by example. I remember with a smile – his infectious smile and dry sense of humor. It was an honor to play for him and I’ll miss him.

  20. Virginia (peterson) Hansmann

    The last time I visited with Tom was at Concordia college in Moorhead Mn. We went to Bethlehem Lutheran at Bayport. He was a special guy. Ginny

  21. Mitch Long

    He was a great man who left his mark on all (hundreds/thousands?) of those lucky enough to have played for him. He was a true gentleman who motivated by a desire to make oneself better, not from fear. He always talked about how lucky we were to be able to be out on a beautiful fall day on the hill. He was right, but mainly because we got to play for him. Those who knew him will never forget him. Thank you coach.

  22. Tim Osmondson

    He was a tremendous man who exemplified to us as young men what we should be as a man while existing on earth. He was tough on me (for good reasons) and held high expectations of what I should become. He believed in me and my drive with all he could muster pushing me to reach whatever I wanted to become and for that I will greatly miss him and cherish all the time and thought he provided me as a student and player.

    I was just one of the many hundreds of examples of student athletes he shared his time and thoughts with about life.

    When I would see him from a far or even close up his white hair would be surrounded with a glow illuminating his genuine witness for our great lord and his commitment to highest level of integrity I have ever experienced from one man.

    He will be missed here but his existense is now amongst the greenest of pastures where I got to believe he is saying to himself, “What a grid-iron that could be”.

    Our thoughts are with the Porter Family,

    With God he was triumphant if life,


  23. Tim Smith

    The lessons I learned from Coach Porter have helped me all my life. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the four autumns I spent learning life and football from Coach Porter. I am so sad at his passing but so grateful that he was among all of us at St. Olaf for all these decades. Rest in Peace Coach.

    Tim Smith, 1970

  24. Tanya (Montour) Gjerdingen

    Gloria & Family, was very sad to hear of Tom’s passing. Tom was a great neighbor and friend to many. I will never forget the times playing in the Porter’s basement and having carmel apples on Halloween. You all are in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. Daniel King

    There are so many enduring memories of St. Olaf football and baseball and the coaches who made lasting impacts on our lives. It doesn’t seem a day goes by where the influence of Tom Porter and his colleagues Jim Dimick and Dave Hauck isn’t drawn upon in some manner.

    We were the fortunate ones; to have found ourselves under their guidance.

    I am forever grateful, Coach Porter, for your shining example of fire and grace. It lives on through all of us.

    My thoughts and deepest sympathies to the Porter family.

    Dan King, ’83

  26. Sharlene Berge

    Tom & Gloria were some of the first people we met when we moved to Northfield; we were sorry to see them leave the neighborhood several years ago. Thank you for your friendship. RIP, Tom.

  27. Kent Johnson

    I was fortunate enough to play for Tom during the 1969 and 1970 championship seasons. His leadership, motivation and example made those championships possible. More importantly, I have used what I learned from him for teaching moments with my kids and grandkids and still find it useful to use the same for learning moments when I need it. Tom, rest in peace.

  28. Andrea Lukacs

    I was so sorry to hear about the passing of Tom. I always enjoyed our football talk while cutting his hair. He will surely be missed….

  29. Robert Schumacher

    Coach Porter was a man of integrity. He was respected by his players because of his dedication to the game and because of his concern for them as human beings. He will always be remembered by those he touched. I was fortunate to have learned from Coach Porter during the 1970 and 1971 Championship seasons in addition to having him as a professor of several coaching classes.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Porter family during this difficult time.

    Bob Schumacher ’72

  30. Jean Johnson Churilla

    My Dad, (Percy Johnson) loved his job with Coach Porter years ago–and had such respect for him…
    sorry for your loss.

  31. Rachel Casey (Thompson)

    He worked with my grandfather(Jerry Thompson) at Neenah high school as his assistant coach. And eventually their teams played against each other. According to my dad (Steve Thompson), they used to go to Tom and Gloria’s house for supper. I am sorry for your loss.


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