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Porter to lead parade

October 9, 2012

    Decatur industrialist Vic Porter has been named grand marshall of this year's Callithumpian Parade, according to an announcement by the Callithumpian Committee.
    The parade will be held on Monday, October 29.
    Founder of Thunderbird Products in Decatur, and chairman of the board of Porter Inc., Porter was born in Decatur, graduated from Decatur High School in 1949, and after a year’s study at Purdue University and Indiana Technical Institute in Fort Wayne, joined his father’s retail mobile home business.
    On June 1, 1950, Porter married Kristine Striker, and during the next year, with local financial backing, Porter purchased a frozen food locker plant. Vic’s Frozen Food Center on West Jefferson Street offered meat processing services and grocery items besides the locker rentals. By 1953, he was also making Center Ice Cream and soon developed rural sales routes along with bicycles selling frozen confections around town during the summer.
    As home freezers became affordable, locker rentals diminished, so Porter studied for real estate sales licensing, earned a broker’s license, and also engaged in area realty for several years.
    In 1958, using the locker facility which had suspended business earlier that year, Porter and two friends began the production and sale of small fiberglass pleasure boats. With Porter as president, the brand known as Duo, Inc. gradually became a solid business and was one of the earlier manufacturing plants to locate in the newly established Industrial Park.
    In 1964, Porter served as president of the Chamber of Commerce.  
    Starcraft Corporation, a larger regional boat manufacturer, bought Duo in the mid1960s, and for a time Porter stayed on as president. In 1970, he and several business associates formed Signa Corporation, producing a line of higher quality fiberglass boats in Decatur. This company also built a manufacturing facility in Industrial Park and became successful with a much larger scale of distribution.
    In 1973, Fuqua Industries, an Atlanta conglomerate that had previously acquired Miami-based Thunderbird/Formula, was looking for new management personnel for its smaller boat companies. Porter and his associates agreed to sell Signa to Fuqua, and Vic was named president of all Fuqua small boat lines.
    By 1976, a severe energy crisis caused Fuqua to sell off all its recreational subsidiaries. Porter was able to purchase Thunderbird Products, which had absorbed the Signa boat line. In 1988, all boat manufacturing, by then doing business as Porter, Inc., was consolidated in a new facility on West Monroe Street.
    Over his business career, Porter was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Otis Bowen, received the Indiana Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award, the Stephen Decatur Award in 1997, and in 2000, Thunderbird received the Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year Award.
    Porter has served on the Indiana Central College (now University of Indianapolis) board, the Anthony Wayne Boy Scout Council, Cole Foundation and Adams Memorial hospital board as well as serving his church, Decatur First United Methodist, in a number of positions.
    The city native realized the need for a local retirement community, and after a number of ncommunity meetings, provided land and seed money for the development of Woodcrest through the Porter Family Foundation.
    He and Kristine have also established an ongoing fund through the Adams County Foundation to benefit community projects.
    Recently Porter was inducted into the Junior Achievement Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame.
    Now well beyond retirement age, Vic continues to serve as Chairman of the Board of Porter Inc. and is still actively involved in the business. Five of his six children carry on at Thunderbird as principal managers while his eldest son is an anesthesiologist in the South Bend area. Several grandchildren are now working in various areas of the family business on a full-time basis. 

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