Rollin "Don" Porter

July 10, 1935November 6, 2018
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On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Rollin “Don” Porter, loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, passed away at the age of 83 with his wife, Janet, steadfastly by his side.

Don was born on July 10, 1935, in Vandalia, IL., to Rollin D. Porter Sr. and Fern W. Goad. He graduated from Vandalia High School in 1953. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1957, he was awarded a Master of Science degree in Education from the University of Northern Iowa in 1963. Don continued his education with post-graduate studies at Northwestern University, Lake Forest College and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

On Sept. 15, 1957, Don married Janet M. Smith, also Vandalia, at his parents’ home. In 1959, the couple re-located to Brownstown, IL, where Don began his career as an educator, teaching science at both Brownstown High School and Hanover High School. In 1963, Don, Janet and their two young children moved to Des Plaines, IL, where he was hired to teach physics at Maine West High School in Township High School District 207. His outstanding classroom instructions and strong rapport with his students led to Don being honored in 1974 with the American Association of Physics Teachers Innovations Teaching Award. He was also named as one of the top five physics teachers in the nation.

In 1974, Don began his career at Township High School District 214, where he was hired as the Science Department Chairman at Forest View High School in Arlington Heights, IL. After spending a decade as a teacher and administrator at Forest View, Don went on to become the Math and Science Department Chairman at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, IL.

After 35 years as a teacher and administrator, Don retired in 1994, and he and Jan moved to Galena, IL, where he soon became an enthusiastic community volunteer. In addition to volunteering with the Galena Territory Fire Department and the Galena Ambulance, where he served the community as an EMT, Don was a starter at the Galena Inn and Resort South Golf Course. As a proud member of the Rotary Club of Galena, Don was named “Rotarian of the Year” in 2008. Don and Jan were also active members of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Galena, where Don served as a church Elder and was involved with the church worship committee.

In 2013, Don and Jan moved to Lisle, IL, to be closer to family.

Don loved fishing, golfing, traveling, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears, coffee and an occasional cigar. Above all, Don cherished his time spent with family, especially the time he enjoyed with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A lifelong learner and educator, Don loved sharing his wealth of knowledge of science and the world around him with family and friends. He will also be remembered for his keen sense of humor, appreciation for nature, and passion for storytelling.

Don is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 61 years, Janet; his two children, Rex Porter of Lakeview, Ark. (special friend, Joan Organ Jenkins) and Susan (Arthur) Zern of Sycamore, Illinois; four grandchildren, Jamie (David) Willett, Steven (Beverly) Porter, David (Rachel) Zern, and Rex Don (fiancé Olivia Thomas) Porter. He is also survived by four great-grandchildren; Jazlyn Porter, Fiona Willett, Raylan Porter, and Rex Remington Porter.

A memorial visitation will be held at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home, 5015 Lincoln Avenue, Lisle, on Saturday, November 17, 2018, from 1-4 with a Celebration of Life service beginning at 4:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (, or the children's charity of your choice.


  • Memorial Visitation Saturday, November 17, 2018
  • Celebration of Life Saturday, November 17, 2018

Rollin "Don" Porter

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Scott Randolph

April 13, 2019

I remember Mr Porter very well. He was my high school physics teacher. He spurred my interest in science. He had an uncanny and amazing ability to make very difficult concepts easy to understand. And make it fun in the process. I always looked forward to learning in his class. He definitely made a difference in my life as a teacher and mentor, as I am sure he did for so many others. I express my sincere condolences to Sue (a classmate of mine at Forest View) and all of her family.

Michael Hassan

November 17, 2018

I have such fond memories of Mr. Porter. By all accounts he led a wonderful life. Godspeed

Mary Pizzillo Peterson

November 17, 2018

Rollin D. Porter aka Rollin down the river! I can remember singing that as a middle schooler!
I was blessed to meet Sue in 6th grade at Dempster Jr. High. I am still blessed to call her my friend!
Being welcomed into the pink kitchen with a “hey, kiddo, how ya doin’?” was always a high point. Mr. and Mrs. Porter were always so warm and welcoming. I always loved when Mr. Porter was home when I visited. He loved to chat and he loved to let us sit in while he chatted on his CB/HAM radio. I thought that was the coolest thing ever!
I was then extremely lucky to have Mr. Porter as a science teacher at FVHS. I sometimes struggled with high school but I always looked forward to his class. He made everything he taught us fun. Especially when he made our hair stand on end! Mr. Porter also helped me after class by talking to me as if I mattered! He was so kind and so generous! The world was lucky to have such a great man in it! I’m sure he touched more lives than we will ever know. God speed Mr. Porter, you sure were loved!

Rachel Zern

November 16, 2018

Although I did not know Papa for that long, I could see he was a very fun, loving person to have your life. He was always cheery during Christmas morning and during thanksgiving, happy to be with his growing family. I will never forget the first time I met him and my husband said he was worried about calling me the wrong name. He was so sweet and caring. He will be missed. Love Rachel

David Zern

November 16, 2018

Papa was always a man of many hats, and not just on our family's Christmas mornings together. A father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, scholar, friend, confidant, trivia master, TV sports coach, expert fisherman....the list goes on. But he filled each one of those roles exceedingly well. Papa was a man of immense joy, humor, and kindness. He cared deeply for not only his family, but for most anyone he met. His kindness and generosity are an example any one of us should strive to emulate. Papa, thank you for bringing such joy to my life, for teaching me so much about what it takes to be a good man; a good human being. I, and we all, will miss you dearly... but your memory and legacy lives on in the lives of each and every person who met you. Love you, Papa!

David Willett

November 16, 2018

Once, when Jamie and I were newlyweds, Papa walked up to me with a sly grin and said, "Here ya go, kid" while shaking my hand and slipping me a 20. I was stunned; not merely by the unexpected cash, but by the sincere warmth and familiarity of the gesture. He always treated me like one of his own grandchildren. Always "Papa", even from the beginning. Thank you, Papa, for your love and kindness and for accepting me so readily as part of your family.

Jamie Willett

November 15, 2018

Where to begin? My Papa was amazing - before I knew him, he was engaging kids in the world of science by making their hair stand on end in the classroom. When I knew him, he engaged me in that same world with microscopes, computers, viewings of the night sky from a telescope on the deck, and more than a few of what we called "Papa's lectures." He taught me to fish, first with a bamboo pole and a red and white bobber, and later with my great-grandmother's pole and a bass lure. Always one to chat up a stranger or coo to a baby, he was friendly, funny, and never without a story to tell (whether true or slightly embellished, we were never really sure). As an avid Chicago sports fan, I still feel thankful that he was able to see the Cubs finally win the World Series.

I am thankful that Fiona was able to know him, and I will miss him deeply.

Luana Lee Schmidt-Cartuccio

November 15, 2018

Mr. Porter was my biology teacher freshman year. He was a kind, considerate, understanding man. He was like a father figure to me. You will truly me missed by all!

Sue Zern

November 14, 2018

I was lucky to have my dad in my life for almost 57 years; many are not that fortunate. I am so grateful that he saw our children grow into amazing adults, watched them marry, and celebrated the birth of a great-granddaughter.

It is impossible to describe my father and my life with him in limited space, but there are words and phrases that describe him, and here are some of them, in no particular order…..

My dad was: Intelligent, funny, generous in all ways, quick to forgive, curious, friendly, hard-working, progressive, open-minded, organized, well-dressed (thanks to Mom), gregarious, patient, kind, enthusiastic, and had a great sense of humor and was able to laugh at himself.

My dad loved – my mother, his family, hugs, children, visits from his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, science, coffee, watching sports on television, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cubs, fishing, traveling, eating and sharing his food, teaching, blueberries, technology, Galena, Hawaii, cigars, golf, space and space exploration, President Obama, cheeseburgers, helping others, sharing stories, talking to people, Ham Radio (WB9OHQ), CB Radio (The Professor), watching movies, classic rock, science-fiction, a clean car, singing in choir, swimming, nature, Arizona, an occasional beer, the latest electronic gadget, preaching an occasional sermon at church, history, comforting and holding a patient’s hand when he was an EMT, Alaska, cruising, wearing funny hats on Christmas Day, referring to someone as “kid” or “pal,” his annual trivia calendar, and orange marmalade.

I could never paint a complete picture of my dad, no matter how much time I had. However, I have that complete picture in my mind, and I always will. I will forever miss my father, but he will always be a part of me and our family in memories and stories. He was a wonderful father, grandfather, and a man of many accomplishments, and I am proud to be his daughter.

Janet Porter

November 14, 2018

I'm slowly coming to the realization that you are not at Edward Hospital or Westbury Rehab. and you will not be coming back to our apartment.

I am so thankful that all your pain and suffering is over. You never gave up until your body was too weak to fight any longer.

Our lives were blessed with two children, four grandchildren, four great grandchildren and many special memories.

Fifteen years ago, our lives changed overnight when you suffered a serious injury which required several years of rehab. We are forever grateful for the love and support of family and friends.

It is impossible to imagine how life will be after 61 years of marriage. With the love and support of family and friends, I'll make the adjustment.

And yes, your Charlie Brown Christmas tree will be in your office next week !!
Love you always and until we meet again,
My God Hold You in the Palm of his Hand.