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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Lasting legacy

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ON SATURDAY, Thelma Porter celebrated her 105th birthday, surrounded by about 50 family members from all over Queensland and Australia.

The tourism pioneer, who moved to Proserpine with husband George, in 1949, has 10 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.

Every year, she celebrates her birthday (August 24) with a lavish cake and a family party, this year taking place at Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill, in Woodwark.

A family photo session on the lawn did not slow down the bowls loving centenarian, who is still the patroness of the Airlie Beach Ladies Bowls Division and now resides at Proserpine Nursing Home.

The Porter family was one of the leading pioneers when Airlie Beach was ‘taking off’, in the 1970s and 1980s, having built the Whitsunday Village and also the Whitsunday Terraces.

Thelma and George Porter moved to Proserpine, from Augathella, and purchased the local newsagency and a jewellery business.

Their children Bob and Lane (Helene) attended St Catherine’s Convent School and then went to Brisbane for their secondary education.

After school, Bob started working in the family business, which included a Queensland Tourist Bureau agency (‘Porters’ Travel’).

Lane followed into the business soon after and the jewellery and travel businesses shifted into a new shop, in Deicke’s Arcade, Proserpine.

George and Thelma then sold the newsagency after twenty years of long hours, seven days a week.

Porter’s Travel in Proserpine was the managing agent for TAA. The Proserpine Airport opened in 1951 and a daily DC3 service operated between Brisbane and Proserpine.

The Porter family was very involved in the port at Shute Harbour. George Porter was part of a group that walked a track from Airlie Beach to Shute Harbour and was instrumental in establishing the road between the two.

This allowed boats to service the Whitsunday islands in all weather conditions. The family then built the first kiosk, at Shute Harbour, in 1967.

In 1968, TAA purchased the Whitsunday Airport, Flame Tree, from which small feeder planes operated and connected with larger planes in Mackay and Townsville.

The Porter family was instrumental in the management and the operation of the Whitsunday Airport, and also operated apartments on Shute Harbour Road, opposite the Airlie Beach Hotel.  

In 1970, the Porter family built the Whitsunday Village, where Magnums is now situated in the Airlie Beach Main Street. The family then built the Whitsunday Terraces, in 1982, and Bob was also involved in the Wanderers Paradise Resort.

Bob was successful in arranging the first P&O ships to call at the Whitsundays and he then arranged for local boat operators to take guests on daytrips to the outer reef and islands.

He was also the co-founder of the annual Airlie Beach ‘Fun Race’.

Sadly, George Porter passed away, in September, 2006, and Bob passed not long after that, in November 2007.

To the Telford family, Thelma is sort of like the Queen Mother.

“She always conducts herself with great dignity and class and is kind and generous to everyone,” said Andrew Telford, who is Lane’s nephew by marriage.

“I would personally like to wish ‘Ma’ all the best for continued good health and to publicly acknowledge her and recognise her as the remarkable matriarch of the Porter and Telford families, and for her family’s significant contribution to the needy, through the St Vincent de Paul Society.

“The legacy left by the Porter family is something that we now all enjoy and, that is, the world-class tourist destination that Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays have become.”

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