Pulling the plug

Officer legend Rob Porter. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS 202457_09

By Mitchell Clarke

After more than 60 years on the tools, plumber Rob Porter finally decided to hang up the hose, but it wasn’t because the job was a drain.

“There’s no stopping me, not yet anyway.”

At just 16-years-old, Rob Porter began his plumbing apprenticeship. 61 years later, at the ripe age of 77, he officially stopped trading his company, RG&CA Porter, after 51 years.

But the dedicated tradie hasn’t been able to take the plunge and walk away from plumbing all together.

“I’m still finding little jobs here and there, I’m still doing roofing,” he laughed.

“There’s no stopping me, not yet anyway.”

Over his remarkable career, Rob has trained three apprentices: Rob Osborne, Peter Russo and son Geoff Porter, who he has worked with for the last 33 years.

At the end of June 2019, son Geoff, who Rob refers to as his “workmate” and “best buddy”, took over the company and is continuing as Porter Plumbing Services.

Born and bred in Officer, Rob and his wife Carol are established township folk, arguably better known as ‘Mr and Mrs Officer’, the duo married 54 years ago, but their story didn’t begin there – Rob tells the Gazette he first met his true love when she was just three-years-old.

“We’re soul mates,” Mr Porter said.

That sentiment is clear, as Rob sits back to reflect on his life alongside Carol, who is currently in hospital with a broken neck.

“She tripped on a tree root in the ground as we were walking into a funeral (on Monday 9 December),” he explained.

“It somehow wrapped around her ankle and she fell straight back into a car.”

By Wednesday 11 December, Carol had woken from a five hour surgery and was expected to be removed from intensive care and into a normal ward.

Thankfully, Carol is doing “much better” than initially expected but sadly it appears that the Porter’s will be spending Christmas in hospital.

But that doesn’t faze Rob, who doesn’t care where he is, as long as it’s by his wife’s side.

The inseparable couple have worked together, contributed to the community together but most importantly started a family together.

“We’ve lived here (in Officer) our whole life and our kids haven’t known any place different,” Mr Porter said.

“We’ve had a great life. We love living in Officer, it’s a great place to live and it’s a wonderful community here.”

And you’d struggle to find an Officer resident who hadn’t been directly impacted by the kindness of the Porter’s or who was unaware of the contribution they’ve made to the booming township.

Rob has held the title of chair at the Officer Community Association for over 40 years, been past president of the Officer Primary School council and been on the Officer Hall committee, scout committee, church committee and the football/cricket club committees.

But the accolades don’t stop there, Rob coached the Officer ROC juniors and seniors and even took the under 15’s to their first premiership.

He remains a life member of the Officer Football and Cricket Club.

Meanwhile, Carol is chairwoman for the Officer Hall and Officer Union Church and has also been on a number of committees, but arguably her greatest achievement was receiving an OAM for 50 years’ service to Melbourne’s south eastern community.

Yet, they still remain humble as ever.

“We keep busy,” he said.

“People often say you have to sit down and relax but that’s not what we’re about.”

The Porter family has called Officer home for generations, with Rob’s grandfather one of the driving forces behind forcing the first football ground, Officer Recreation Reserve.

Rob has been chairman of the Officer Recreation Reserve for more than 45 years where he’s mowed the ovals, maintained the track and done maintenance with Geoff for over 33 years.

“My wife says I live there more than I do at home,” he said.

“But I enjoy doing what I do and helping to keep ovals nice and tidy.”

And Rob is adamant that retirement won’t slow him down in the slightest.

“I’ve been involved in community things all my life,” he explained.

“Now, it’s becoming very hard to get people involved in the community things.

“Both Carol and myself are slightly worried that people our ages are holding the title of chairman and women and running the groups, so we are hoping younger people in the community can get involved.”

But he acknowledges it’s not as simple as that, stating it’s simply a change in generation, where young people are often working two jobs just to pay their mortgages.

“It’s a change of the times now,” he explained.

Also a change of the times, Officer’s booming population, a place Rob and Carol never envisioned to become so populated.

“I can tell you some stories about how we used to ride up and down the Princes Highway in our push bikes,” Rob joked.

“To tell you the truth, we don’t like the intense development.

“We were hoping their might be larger blocks for people because that’s what everyone is crying out for these days.”

The Porter’s acknowledge council is simply trying to cater to the multitude of people moving into the south east and calling these growth corridors home.

“I think one day our community might regret that we’ve squeezed so many people and houses into a small area,” he said.

“I just hope we’re not producing a monster and we don’t come to regretting it one day.”

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