Family keeps seven siblings in Toledo areaWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Porter family gathers for dinner every Sunday. If you can make it, you do. If you can’t, come next week. It wouldn’t be easy to make the Sunday tradition if John and Karen Porter and their seven children — five on their own, two still at home — hadn’t remained living in the Toledo area.
But Toledo is where they remain for now.
“It is home,” said 31-year-old Mike Porter, who lives in the city of Toledo with his wife Jill and their family. “I never really felt like trying anywhere else out. I don’t know if I could be away from my family.”
Second-born Mike is an independent distributor of Little Debbie snacks. He admires his mother, Karen, who is a stay-at-home mom, and father, John, who is a manager at Kroger, for keeping it together for 35 years.
The sentiment seems to be the same among the siblings, who range in age from 14 to 34, as they salute their parents on their Dec. 28 wedding anniversary. They thank their parents for the joys of a large family, and for showing them the best of Toledo.
“When we were little, we lived close to the rec center, where we went swimming,” said 29-year-old Meredith Porter, who lives in Bowling Green. “We went on trips to the zoo; we didn’t go on big trips. There was plenty around here to do.”
Third-born Meredith teaches and researches for Bowling Green State University where she earned her doctorate in sociology. She is getting married in May.
“I always knew that I have to be with someone who understands how close I am to my family and who wants a family,” Meredith said.
The Porter clan was destined to be large because all mother Karen wanted to do was raise babies, Mike said.
When she and John got married Dec. 28, 1972, their first-born, Vince Porter, was already on the way.
“I really admire my parents,” said 14-year-old Cate Porter, the youngest of the seven and a student at Gateway Middle School.
The Porters raised their family in South Toledo, in the Maumee school district. They moved to Maumee six years ago. Vince lives next door.
“I didn’t appreciate growing up in a big family,” joked 34-year-old Vince, a real estate agent.
Vince and Mike are both divorced and remarried. They know staying together for 35 years is no small feat.
“I made a conscious decision to stay in the area,” said Vince, who was in the Army and lived in Hawaii for a few years. “I get a little claustrophobic once in awhile, but our family is so close, I would feel like I was leaving part of me behind if I left.”
Sixth child Maggie Porter lives at home with her parents and Cate. The 22-year-old is studying early childhood education at BGSU.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said of her big family.
Maggie remembers how their parents surprised them with the news of Cate at Christmas: baby clothes wrapped under the tree.
Unlike the rest of his siblings, 25-year-old Nick Porter, the fifth child, is considering moving away. Nick has a bachelor’s in education.
“For so many years I have taken my family for granted,” Nick said. “It wasn’t until the last few years that I have begun to understand and appreciate how special and unique my family is: seven brothers and sisters separated by 20 years that all still live in the Toledo area and come together every Sunday for family dinner.”
The youngest of the brothers, Nick said he felt like the odd one, always putting his friends ahead of his family.
Fourth child and 27-year-old Chris Porter works for Pepsi as a merchandiser.
“My mother is a saint,” Chris said. “What I have learned from her is being able to be available to anyone at anytime — I came to be this way by watching my mom put others before herself [for] as long as I can remember.”
If and when Nick moves, he said he knows that’s when he will truly appreciate his family.
“My father is the hardest-working, most selfless man I have ever met — everything he has ever done in his life has been for my mother and us kids. Every time the family gets a new car, he gives it to my mom and he takes the one she has been driving,” Nick said.
He blames his mom for not having a girlfriend for more than one month.
“Every girl I meet is compared to her, and thus far, no one has compared,” Nick said.