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Franklin Regional school director loved to cook for an army

| Thursday, June 11, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Bruce R. Porterfield, 80, of Murrysville, died Monday, June 8, 2015.
Bruce R. Porterfield, 80, of Murrysville, died Monday, June 8, 2015.

Bruce Porterfield knew cold weather.

A cook in the Army during the Korean War, he worked on the Distant Early Warning system, or DEW line, a string of radar sites stretching 3,000 miles across the Arctic Circle from Alaska to Greenland, designed to provide an early warning of Russian aircraft. Winter lasted from October to May, and temperatures reached 60-65 below zero with winds of 100 mph.

“He never really complained,” said his wife of 48 years, Isabel Gomez Porterfield. “He was a good soldier.”

That held even when their supply ship got stuck in the ice for a month, and the soldiers had to shuttle supplies to their base in that frigid weather.

Bruce R. Porterfield of Murrysville died Monday, June 8, 2015, of complications of dementia in Countryside Nursing Home in Mercer. He was 80.

Born Aug. 22, 1934, a son of the late Phil F. and Alvira Rea Porterfield, he graduated from Trine University in Angola, Ind., (formerly Tri-State University) and worked as a civil engineer. He volunteered with Murrysville Medic One, served on the Franklin Regional School Board and was a member of the Murrysville Republican Committee.

Mr. Porterfield was pleased to have served his country, said his daughter, Barbara Leonard.

“He kept his ID card in his wallet. He was really proud of working on the DEW line,” she said.

It was where he learned to cook for a small army.

“He was very good at making big meals,” his daughter said. “Thanksgiving was his thing.”

Mr. Porterfield had an adventurous side and took his family on extended trips, Leonard said.

“We'd go to Florida and stop in Georgia for peaches. He liked to explore different places,” she said.

A big proponent of education, he served multiple terms on the Franklin Regional board during the district's expansion and was a huge influence on younger generations of the family. The Porterfield household was always filled with books their father had bought.

Friendly and quick with a smile, he met his wife, a native of Colombia, through a friend. She was learning languages by writing to people in various parts of the world.

“I wrote to Bruce for English, one person in France and another in South Africa,” she said.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children, Barbara Leonard and husband, Eric, of North East in Erie County; Wade Porterfield and wife, Robyn, of Allegany, N.Y.; Diane Porterfield of New Cumberland in Cumberland County; and Kathleen Porterfield and Wade Panzich of Juneau; and nine grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Hart Funeral Home Inc., Murrysville, where a service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Interment will be private in Murrysville Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Murrysville Community Library.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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