- March 28, 2019
The words of “But Where Are You?” by 1950s country singer Ferlin Husky softly fills room 204 at The Gardens at DePugh in Winter Park.
It’s 100-year-old Eva Porter. And she’s still singing.
Why wouldn’t she be? Today is her birthday.
“My throat is nothing like it was,” said Porter, as she receives a stir of applause and “bravos!” from family members.
Meet Winter Park’s newest centenarian. Earlier this month, Eva Porter blew out the birthday candles for the 100th time, celebrating her centennial birthday with her family.
Porter has lived to see 18 U.S. presidents. She’s lived through both World Wars. She’s lived 100 years’ worth of memories.
“I have enough stories to write a book,” Porter said.
Porter was born on April 1, 1917, in Worcester, Massachusetts, growing up as the oldest child over her two brothers and five sisters. She was forced to leave school early as a young adult to help support her family during the Great Depression.
She worked as a waitress at a restaurant called the Blue Goose, but that didn’t last long. Porter’s true passion was music.
“When they heard her sing, they just had to have her sing,” said Porter’s sister, Lydia.
Porter started singing when she was 14 and eventually got a gig singing on weekends.
When Porter was 18 years old, she met another performer named Robert Moore, a puppeteer she met at a dinner hall at a hotel in Worcester.
They decided to get married and hit the road to perform together in 1935.
But that new beginning ended in tragedy five months later, a horrific car crash in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that took Robert’s life.
“I was with him,” Porter said. “I broke my collarbone.”
Porter recovered from the accident and eventually got back into singing.
Robert’s father made arrangements to put Porter on her biggest stage yet: the Major Bowes Amateur Hour talent show in New York.
Porter auditioned and earned the top spot out of 12 contestants.
She was a star, and her voice and name were carried over the radio waves across America.
Three years after Robert died, Porter married her second husband: Lincoln Porter, a band leader of a group known as the Cameo Serenaders.
The gentleman had heard of Eva’s reputation as a singer and asked if she would join him.
The couple traveled across the country for years, until Porter and her husband eventually settled down and had their daughter Janice in 1940.
When their little girl was 6 years old, the Porters decided to hit the road with a new business: a carnival and mobile aquarium called the Aquarama — a semi-truck that carried saltwater fish tanks filled with eels, sharks and all kinds of fish.
Janice joined her parents on weekends and during the summers as they traveled the country running their carnival.
The Porters ran that carnival for at least 15 years until they moved down to Florida in the 1980s before Lincoln Porter passed on.
It’s been a wild ride for Eva Porter in the past 100 years, but she’s taken it one step at a time.
And that’s exactly how she reached 100, she said.
“I have no secret,” Porter said. “I lived each day as it came, and I thought I did the right thing.”