Marilyn Jean Carpenter Porta, age 89 years, passed away peacefully on the night of Friday, March 24, 2017. Marilyn, known to all as “Mimi”, the only child of the late George Dayton Carpenter and Mayme Opal Pecha Carpenter, was born on October 2, 1927 in Beatrice, Nebraska.
Mimi Carpenter was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, where she attended Minne Lusa Grade School, and graduated from Omaha North High School at the age of 16 with the Class of 1944. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and then obtained a Master of Arts degree in French at The University of Oregon at Eugene, and a Teacher’s Certificate from Creighton University in Omaha.
Although an only-child, she was part of a very large family. She had seven aunts and uncles on her mother’s side and another aunt and uncle on her dad’s side, all of whom were married and had or adopted children, so she had 16 first cousins, every one of which she saw at least once a year at the obligatory family reunions that were so common to many families during the Great Depression. Many cousins she saw at least every week and some she played with daily. Throughout her life, Mimi remained very close and devoted to her extensive extended family.
“Little Mimi” also was very close to all four of her grandparents throughout their lives. Her parents immigrated from Czechoslovakia late in the 1800s via New York City to South Omaha. Her maternal Grandfather, Anton Pecha, was a cabinet maker in Bohemia before he met and married Anna Fiala in America. Anton built two houses on adjoining lots in South Omaha, sold one and lived in the other with his wife and 8 children. Since Marilyn’s father was a pharmacist and her mother was an elementary school teacher, before “Little Mimi” start going to school herself, she spent every weekday in her grandmother’s big kitchen, listening to her grandparents speaking in Czech and hearing Czech music playing on her grandfather’s state-of-the-art Victrola (music was one of the very few luxuries these frugal immigrants allowed themselves, and Mimi eventually inherited much of his vast library of 78 RPM records!) Thus began her deep, abiding love for music of all types. She watched her grandma make soap, can fruits and vegetable from their large garden and the many fruit trees they had planted the moment they acquired the land for their two houses (both of which are still inhabited today). Although she adamantly denied it, both of Marilyn’s parents repeatedly stated that “Little Mimi” was clearly the apple of Grandmother Anna’s eye and had her Grandfather Anton entirely and completely wrapped around her tiny little fingers. Mimi’s father would continued to lament many decades after his father-in-law’s passed away from overwork in 1936 how his daughter would just look at her beloved grandfather with her pretty hazel-blue eyes and, without her even saying a single word with her sweet childish voice, Anton Pecha would pull a piece of candy out of his pocket for his “Little Mimi” and give it to her EVERY SINGLE TIME! Marilyn’s mother, Mayme Carpenter, would shake her head and admit that her own mother, who was never let her own kids get away with anything ever, was just as blatantly unwilling to make any attempt to resist the power of those hazel-blue eyes. She said it was embarrassing how much her parents loved “Little Mimi”, just “downright embarrassing”, and she never could figure out why they hadn’t treated any of their own kids that way even though Mayme had a Masters Degree in Psychology from The University of Omaha (now known as The University of Nebraska at Omaha).
“Little Mimi” also loved going out to her paternal grandparents’ farm every summer. The Carpenter family homestead was just a stone’s throw from the miniscule town of Carlton, Nebraska, and “Little Mimi” got to sit on her Grandpa Carpenter’s knee on some holidays also. That side of her family was predominantly English and went way back to colonial days. In fact, after “Little Mimi” was a grandmother herself several time over she learned that one of her direct paternal ancestors fought with Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolution, but she never did join the DAR.
She married her college sweetheart, Pio Porta VI, in 1955 and had 5 children: Maria, Pio VII, Gloria, Jorge, and Michael, the middle three of which survived her. The couple separated on the 4th of July in 1960, three months before Michael’s birth, and Marilyn Porta returned from Portland, Oregon to Omaha with her children almost exactly one year later. Divorced later that same year, she was a devoted single parent who never remarried. Naturally, she immersed her children into the overwhelming love of her vast and ever-expanding extended family.
After completing her Master’s degree and working as a student teacher, she followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an educator also. Marilyn finally taught French and Spanish full time in several of Omaha’s public high schools after extensive substitute teaching. She became the French Alliance extracurricular student activity group leader and enthusiastically encouraged and assisted many of her best students to continue their studies in France. Later she taught multiple subjects in a private school and took a variety of jobs to keep her five children clothed and fed, but she never lost any of her enduring passion for all things French! It wasn’t until after she retired that she herself finally got to “walk the streets of Paris”, accompanied by her daughter Gloria, with whom she travelled further East into to Czechoslovakia and Poland, which were still “behind the Iron Curtain” at that time. Not to be outdone by his sister, Marilyn’s son Michael took her to Scotland (that time even her children’s sibling rivalry worked out well for her!).
Mimi was an insatiable reader and was genuinely interested in every subject under the sun. She passed this love of learning on to her children and grandchildren to the 4th generation. She also passed on an adamant hatred for racism, bigotry and intolerance in any form to her offspring, her relatives and everyone she knew or met. She intentionally exposed all of her children to foreign cultures, languages, and cuisines, jazz and classical music, poetry, fine and modern art, museums, libraries, and literature.
Marilyn didn’t neglect the spiritual aspects of her life either. Her enormous love for Church History drew her into an examination of the writings of the early Church Fathers, and led her eventually to convert from Methodism to Roman Catholicism about the time she entered College. While Marilyn’s mother and father helped teach their five grandchildren morals, manners, and character, Mimi taught her children about the Trinity and introduced them to prayer. She took all of her children to church every Sunday until they could decide for themselves what to believe. Marilyn always gave each of her children a coin to put in the offering plate, even when she was going through financial straits (and she made sure they didn’t pocket the money, too!). All of her children attended parochial schools until her son Pio decided he wanted to attend a public Junior High School. Both of her younger sons followed him there when they entered 7th grade. Sometimes she herself went to mass in the morning at one church and in the evening at another. She was very devout and was always actively involved wherever she went to worship.
In later years her faith in God deepened as life got harder and her parents and that whole generation that she had loved so dearly and which had loved her so much departed, and was separated by distance from the very last of her first cousins. Her reliance on God alone and not herself or others seemed to grow as she aged. After the untimely death from heart disease at age 42 of her youngest son, Michael, for many years during in her 60s and 70s Marilyn was geographically remote from all but her eldest son Pio and his family, so she devoted much of her time to church activities and socializing at her favorite Italian, Chinese and Greek restaurants (“After all, who wants to eat alone all the time?” she’d habitually say), and was a much-loved “regular” at the tiny Cecil’s Café on Dodge Street (where she’d see Warren Buffet dining fairly often), when she wasn’t spending time with “Pio and Alice and the kids” (as she’d call them, even many years after Pio’s middle child, Tuck, got out of the Navy!), or off making one her periodic visits to see her more distant descendants in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. For many decades she provided sound advice and assistance by phone or by mail on countless occasions when members of her beloved and fast-growing family went astray or was in peril or hardship. Her ears were tireless when it came to listening to someone in distress, both for her family members and for her friends, and seemed to grow more so with each passing year.
While visiting the largest section of her offspring in New Mexico she became seriously ill. When she was released from the hospital in Albuquerque, she decided she liked seeing her grandkids and their children and her grandchildren’s’ grandchildren every day, so she chose at long last not to return to Omaha. After four long years of being grossly over-loved, her son Jorge came to New Mexico and pried her away the myriad of little arms that were relentlessly hugging their beloved “Grandma Mimi” and all those little mouths that perpetually showered her with kisses (really, it was enough to make a grown man sick to his stomach!). Being wearied with affection, in 2013 she reluctantly agreed to allow herself to be moved to Mesquite, Texas, where she resided with the youngest of her surviving children in his home for six months before she had her first stoke. It wasn’t extremely severe, but it did leave Marilyn with “verbal apraxia” (difficulty speaking correctly and easily with her mouth the words she was thinking in her head). In addition, she seemed to lose all of her math skills. The loss of the latter ability never concerned or distressed Marilyn in the minutest degree (she was entirely content letting Jorge balance her checkbook and pay her bills while she watched a movie in French that interested her or read a yet another intriguing detective novel or conquered a challenging crossword puzzle), but the loss of the former caused her to need someone to be with her when Jorge went to work. And that is when the beautiful golden sunset of her life began.
After recovering from her stroke and getting a pacemaker to steady her heartbeat, Marilyn was released from her Rehab facility in Mesquite directly into the loving care of Joy Mmbifwa and her compassionate staff at The Family’s Choice in Dallas. Now Marilyn became part of a whole new family and, as you may have already guessed, she was once more habitually over-loved and doted upon all over again. But in some ways it was even worse for Mimi, who was now well into her mid-eighties, because this residential care center was not only continually spotlessly clean, and got to watch from a comfortable chair through the big patio windows as her son Jorge plant dozens of rose bushes, azalea, and other useless flowers all around her new home (at Joy’s request) in the extremely warm Texas springtime sunshine while the smiling staff forced deliciously cool, refreshing drinks into her eager hands. Even worse, now Marilyn had to contend with the unspeakably wonderful care provided to her during the regular house calls made by the overly-competent Doctor Newcomer, who just about killed her with cheerfulness, wisdom, and astute observation. In addition, there were all these activities, Bible studies, bingo games. It was really hard to watch her receive and reciprocate such an extreme overabundance of warm and caring companionship which she so obviously delighted in every day during the four years she was in the care provided for her by the Lord through the open-hearted ministry of Joy Mmbifwa and all her staff at Marilyn’s Hillwood II home. It was clear to everyone who knew Marilyn really well that, physically and socially, God really had saved the best for last for her because never in her entire life since she nursed on her dear mother’s breast had Marilyn Porta ever been cared for so well. Her last days and years on this earth were truly, truly beautiful for her and for those that loved her most.
Marilyn Jean Porta is preceded in death by her daughter, Maria D. Porta, son, Michael F. Porta, and grandson, Pio Porta VIII. She is survived by her children; Pio Porta VII (Alice), Gloria E. Schwisow (Mark), and Jorge R. Porta, grandchildren; Maria Rose Cordova, Kristie Lynn Saltzman, Michael D. Saltzman, Jodie Limbach, Tuck M. Porta, Derek Porta, Justin Porta, Patrick Schwisow, Elizabeth Schwisow, Jonathan Porta, and J.W. “Jake” Porta, twenty three great-grandchildren, seventeen great-great-grandchildren, and numerous extended family and friends.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 11:00 AM, Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at the ARIA Memorial Chapel on Preston Road in Far North Dallas. Family and friends are welcome to join in a luncheon afterwards at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse on West Campbell Road in Richardson.
Arrangements were under the direction of:
ARIA Cremation Service & Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road, Dallas, Texas 75252