Legacy of Love

John Porter lost his wife, brother and father to cancer. Now he is leaving behind a gift to help families of the future

Married 52 years, 10 days. Together, in total, for 58 years and four days. John Porter can tell you exactly how long he and his wife Virginia shared their lives before she died of cancer. He speaks of the days and years he spent with his teenaged sweetheart and “dear partner in life,” now comforted by the many memories. “We were blessed with a happy and satisfying marriage,” says Porter, 90. “We had an extremely full life together.”

In Loving Memory: John Porter came to know the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and appreciated the level of care his wife received.

After marrying in 1948, they moved from Saskatoon to Calgary, where Porter found work as a geologist.

They bought the home where Porter still lives and the couple – who never had children – enjoyed a life of hosting dinner parties, visiting the local theatre and taking road trips. As a homemaker, Virginia found her niche behind the sewing machine making dresses and suits.

Things took a turn in 1986 when she developed uterine cancer and spent the next five years receiving treatment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. Nine years after her treatment, she developed osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer, and she died in 2000.

“I still miss her dearly,” says Porter. “I have a lot of memories and a lot of photographs and it sustains me, but it’s rather lonely.”

Unfortunately he’s no stranger to the losses of cancer, which had already claimed the lives of his father, twin brother and both of Virginia’s parents. Cancer also struck his mother and sister, who lived past the illness. Before Virginia died, the couple decided to make yearly contributions and to commit part of their estate as a gift for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

During his trips back and forth to the Tom Baker, Porter came to know the facility well and appreciate the high level of care his wife received. And the research projects he learned about impressed him. As a result, his legacy will be distributed evenly across patient care and research.

“I’m so impressed – being a geo-scientist myself – it’s just amazing, the changes and new ideas they’ve come up with,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a magic bullet, but a lot of intelligent people and researchers are working on this. I think we’ll look back in another century and say ‘Boy that was a real renaissance period.’”

Derek Michael, gift planning specialist with the Alberta Cancer Foundation, says future gifts such as Porter’s are crucial. “Making that commitment for cancer patients down the road means we’ll have funding available for future research and patient care programs,” Michael says. “There can be a long-term vision and plan. People like John benefit complete strangers they’ll never meet and yet they’re still willing to make that generous commitment.”

There’s a misconception that gift planning is only for the wealthy, Michael adds. He says that any amount is significant. “It can be whatever makes sense for your circumstances. It adds up quickly.”

After 12 years, Porter says finding closure over the loss of his wife is difficult. But when it comes to the disease, he has great faith the foundation will use his future gift to help families down the road.

“This gives me some quiet satisfaction.”

Plan Ahead

Girish Agrawal, senior executive financial consultant, says most people underestimate the charitable potentials of their estate. “Once there is a commitment, there are ways to enhance that commitment or make it more efficient.” Future gift options range from a specified amount or asset in a will, a charitable remainder trust, a life insurance policy, or setting up a private foundation.

The Alberta Cancer Foundation can guide interested donors through the process. Contact Derek Michael, gift planning specialist, 780-643-4662.
“It may not be part of their day-to-day job, but they do have access to the resources you need,” says Agrawal.

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