Thursday, December 08, 2022

Robert Wesley Porter, Sr.

| October 28, 2022 7:00 AM

It is with deep sadness the children of Commander Robert Wesley Porter, a retired Naval aviator, announce the death of our hero, who slipped the surly bonds of earth on Sept. 24, 2022, of natural causes.

He died at his home in Libby, Montana, in view of the Cabinet Mountains and Kootenai River he loved, with family by his side.

Our dad was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on March 20, 1934, and began flying at the age of 14, crop dusting nearby fields. He knew he wanted to make flying a career and to serve his country, joining the Navy and attending flight school in Pensacola, Florida, in 1955.

He started as a catapult officer on the USS Enterprise where he was burned and nearly killed in a gas tank explosion aboard the ship in 1963. He went on to fly F-4B Phantom fighter planes with the VF-84 Jolly Rogers squadron assigned to the USS Independence.

From 1970-1971, he was stationed at both Miramar and North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego where he was named Commanding Officer of the Black Ponies Light Attack Squadron (VAL-4) and deployed to Vietnam. It was the first Navy squadron of its type flying Rockwell OV-10A "Broncos."

Commander Porter was highly decorated receiving numerous medals and ribbons including; the Legion of Merit w/Combat "V," Distinguished Flying Cross (3), Air Medal (3), Navy Commendation w/Combat "V" (2), Combat Action, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Expeditionary, National Defense Service, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross (3), Vietnam Medal of Honor, Vietnam Civic Action, Vietnam Campaign. He had more than 6,000 flight hours, 800 carrier landings and flew more than 600 combat missions.

He married Janis Lyon Fraim in 1956 and they were married for 23 years. Together, they had three children, Laural Jene Porter Houlihan, Robert Wesley Porter II, and Anne Chapin Porter Daugherty.

After his career in the Navy, he opened his own aerobatic flying school, Porter Aero, and flew in aerobatic shows for Budweiser across the globe with his second wife, Suzan Gearhart Porter, whom he married in 1981.

Later in life, he traded in flying planes for fly fishing from his drift boat on Montana's Kootenai River. He liked nothing better than tying his own dry fly and seeing a rainbow trout rise to his perfect cast.

Dad was always our "Top Gun" and often wore his Top Gun hat until his final days. Our spirits are lifted by lines in one of his favorite poems, "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...Where never lark nor ever eagle flew. And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

Commander Robert Wesley Porter is predeceased by his parents Martha Ann Marinen Porter and Wesley Elliot Porter; and his wife, Suzan Gearhart Porter. He is survived by his children, Laural, Robert and Anne; sons-in-law, Michael Houlihan and Ron Daugherty; nine grandchildren, Megan Houlihan, Kaitlin Houlihan Harger, Alison Houlihan Carrier, William Houlihan, Robert Porter III, Christopher Porter, Elizabeth Porter Bona, Ronnie Daugherty and Spencer Daugherty; and seven great-grandchildren.

We will honor his memory and military service at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2022, at Miramar National Cemetery. A plaque honoring our Dad can be found at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial.

Local arrangements were by Schnackenberg Funeral Home of Libby. Online condolences and memories may be shared by visiting