Joseph Wray Porter, retired Nashville businessman, has died in Venice at the age of 85, following four months of declining health.
Founder of Nashville’s Bike Pedlar in 1973, he and his wife, Jean Bishop Porter, moved to Fort Myers, Fla., in 1992. Following the sale of the bicycle and fitness equipment center, they resumed a lifelong interest in art and poetry. A certified YMCA secretary in both Norfolk and Nashville, his business and professional pursuits stemmed from a lifelong commitment to physical fitness and exercise. He was a principal figure in organized cycling activities in both areas and served one term as treasurer on the board of the League of American Wheelmen, leading its national roundup ride from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville in 1975.
Moving to Venice in 2005, he was active in Voices of Venice, a poetry group meeting Thursdays at the Jacaranda Public Library. He won honors for poetry and short-story writing in Florida state writing competitions for 1995 and 1996, and an honorable mention in Writer’s Digest’s 78th annual writing competition for his short story, “Sixty Miles to Kunming.”
His oils, while an art student at the University of Richmond, brought recognition from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This included a recommendation to purchase his “Still Life in Oils,” as well as selection for the museum’s 1953 biennial show and 1955 traveling exhibit, followed by the museum’s invitation for a one-man show in 1956 and the Virginia Artists Rotating Exhibition in 1957.
He was born in Fort Gay, W.V., the son of Doug and Hattie Watts Porter. Following the death of his mother, he was raised in Troutdale, Va., by his aunt Ethel Watts Stamper and her husband, Arlie Wylie Stamper. After graduating from Virginia’s Oak Hill Baptist Academy, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served a three-year hitch, then entered the University of Richmond and graduated in 1953 with a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
Marrying at Norfolk, Va., in 1956, the couple had three children: the late Elizabeth Stratton Porter, Joseph W. Porter Jr. and Emory William Bishop Porter of Miami, Fla. He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist congregations of Venice, Nashville and Fort Myers. Survivors also include a sister- and brother-in-law, Judith B. and John E. Coleman, of St. Cloud.
Services: A celebration of life is planned. Arrangements are being handled by Ewing Funeral Home.
Contributions: In lieu of flowers, expressions of condolences and love may be sent to the Elizabeth Porter Memorial Scholarship Fund at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro.