Earl Portrey
Earl Portrey
Earl Portrey

Earl Portrey

AFRH-G Resident Highlight – Earl Portrey
By Lori Kerns | Librarian

Earl Lee Portrey was born and raised in the center of America’s heartland, Falls City, Nebraska. His father was originally a railroader but eventually became a farmer. Growing up as an only child, Earl was relied upon to help with the farming responsibilities. He lived three and a half miles from school and truly walked “uphill” to get there each day. Due to the distance of school and his farm work, he really did not have the time to play sports or be involved in any extracurricular activities.

Around 1950, he and a few friends had decided to join the Navy. They were all signed up and only needed to be sworn in. Earl ended up being late getting to his bus to be sworn in so his Navy career never came to fruition. However after talking to a friend and seeing that he could possibly have his own boat, Earl decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard.

He was sent to boot camp at Cape May, New Jersey. His first orders were for District 9 located in Ohio. Earl was originally trained to be a gunner’s mate and was sent to interesting locations throughout his Coast Guard career. From weather patrol on the East Coast to weather patrol in Hawaii, he enjoyed his career and vowed he would make the same decision to do it all over again.

Early on in his career, Earl’s friend set him up on a blind date with a young lady named Annabelle. The couple fell in love and married. They had three children, Michelle Renee, William Earl, and John Lee.

When Earl was getting to the end of his career, he had risen to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3. He was considering trying for W-4 but did not want to have to move his family to Washington, D.C. He made the decision to retire after 25 years of Coast Guard service. Those 25 years of service gave him some very interesting experiences and stories. Among these experiences are breaking up ice in the Hudson River, having his vessel badly cracked during weather patrol in Hawaii, and serving aboard the USS Nike on the Gulf Coast.

Upon his military retirement, he and his family were living in the New Orleans area. He decided to fix up one of the properties he owned. Before long, he decided that retired life was not for him just yet. He found a job making hydraulic panels at a company in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

After losing Annabelle in 2009, Earl read in the newspaper about AFRH-G and decided to put his name on the list. It took about two years of being on the waiting list before he was able to move to the Gulfport Home in 2013. He finally decided he was ready for retirement. These days, he enjoys a quieter life at the Home. The greatest perk of his retirement is when he makes trips back to his home state of Nebraska to visit old friends.  At the end of this month Earl will celebrate his 87th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. Portrey!