|On Saturday, Jan. 2, the auction industry lost a renowned and respected friend when Tom Porter, former owner of Garth’s Auction House, died after a battle with cancer. Within the antique and auction industries, Porter was known as a wonderful storyteller, with a quick smile.
Throughout his more than 40 years of involvement with Garth’s, Porter became well known for his quick wit and depth of knowledge. Jeff Jeffers, who purchased Garth’s from Porter in 2006, describes a friend and a mentor. “Tom always had a smile on his face. He was a guy who had some wonderful, very positive perspectives on a lot of different things. This is a sad day for everyone here.” At the time of his death, Porter was working as a consultant for the auction firm.
Born on April 16, 1934 in Ironton, Ohio, Tom married Carolyn Bemiller Porter in 1957. In those very early days, the couple began to buy antiques while stationed at Fort Meade, Md., to furnish their apartment on a limited budget.
“We started haunting antique shops,” Porter told The Delaware Gazette in a 1981 interview. “Within 18 months we bought enough furniture to furnish an apartment.”
From there, the Porters only began to build. In the early years of their marriage, Tom worked as a salesman by day and a picker by night – often coming home to their four daughters as Carolyn went out to continue the buying and selling efforts.
Their faithful attendance at Garth’s Auctions in Delaware, Ohio, combined (undoubtedly) with their professional and fair approach, brought them to the attention of Garth Oberlander who started Garth’s Auction House in 1954. In 1967, Oberlander tripled the staff of his small but mighty auction company from one to three when he hired Tom and Carolyn Porter. Little did he know that their modest beginnings would grow into one of the most well-respected auction firms in the country.
In the early 1970s, the Porters took over the entire operation of Garth’s, where Tom Porter built upon his strong “people” skills, auctioneering abilities and solid business ethics. For many years, he was a primary contributor to the popular HGTV series The Appraisal Fair.
Porter was an active member of the Delaware, Ohio, community, having served on boards of the Delaware County Bank, Grady Memorial Hospital, the Delaware County Historical Society and Delaware County Cultural Arts Center. He was also a U.S. Army and National Guard veteran and, of course, longtime proprietor of Garth’s, situated at the intersections of U.S. 23S and Ohio 315, commonly referred to as the “gateway” to the city.
Tom is survived by his wife, Carolyn (Bemiller); four daughters, Helen, Sally, Sammi Flynn (Tom), and Susie; four grandchildren, Atticus, Caleb, and Olivia Jack and Luke Flynn; a sister, Marjorie Ellen Payne of Newark; and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service is being planned at Garth’s Auctions, in Delaware, Ohio, in mid-May. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Delaware County Historical Society, 157 E. William St., Delaware, Ohio 43015 or Hospice at Grady, 551 W. Central Ave., Delaware, OH 43015.