Rev. Kenneth L. Porter led a rocky but fulfilling life, and his recent death at age 61 is leaving a huge hole in the Quad Cities community.
After battling kidney disease for 25 years, the beloved East Moline man passed away from pneumonia Sept. 11, 2023 at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria.
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22 at Sanctuary QC, 1501 John Deere Road, Silvis. Rev. P. Wonder Harris will officiate. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 21 at the same location. Memorials may be made to the family.
“KP or Rev” was “a genuine soul, truly devoting his life to others and doing God’s work,” Porter’s obituary says. “The smile that KP wore was there even thru his health struggles. He was a true warrior thru surviving kidney transplants, kidney cancer and dialysis.”
Porter was born Sept 20, 1961 in Paris, Tenn., the oldest of 11 children to Thomas Lee and Johnnie Ruth Porter. He attended United Township High School in East Moline and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1983.
He was a true comic in high school (he attended through 1979) and he won the UT spring talent shows three years in a row, specializing in impersonating celebrities. A high school story about him said he was influenced by comedy legends Richard Pryor and Steve Martin.
“I say Richard Pryor and Steve Martin are my idols because we have something in common – they’re crazy and I’m crazy,” a teenage Porter said then.
“He never graduated, but he is the smartest man in the world for not graduating high school,” his son Aaron Shivers said Tuesday afternoon. “He went through senior year, but he had to take care of his siblings, he told me. He was the smartest man in the world, when it comes to anything. He knew everything.”
“He taught everybody – me and my friends – he taught us how to be men,” Shivers said (who was 1 when Porter married his mother, Audrey Shivers, in 1990). “Even the ones who didn’t have a dad. My friends, a lot of ‘em didn’t have a dad.”
“He coached us in life,” Shivers said. “Just my decision making – making the right decisions, because it could affect me later on. He embodied that when it comes to me, being a man, doing everything you’re supposed to do in life. Seeing him doing all this, not only did he lead by action, he definitely coached me through life. He taught all of us how to be men.”
“He taught me about football — that’s why I was pretty good in school at football around the Western Big 6 as a running back because of him,” Shivers said. “He helped me get my degree in business and be better than him. He pushed me. He coached me my siblings and my friends and the whole community through life.”
The 34-year-old has performed comedy and music, and that was all because of his dad.
He was also impressed by Porter wearing many hats over his life. He loved music (The Temptations, Gladys Knight), drag racing and the Dallas Cowboys. Porter and Shivers went to see the NFL team beat the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in December 2014.
Porter worked as a housing inspector for Greater Metro Area Housing Authority in Rock Island County, from 1986 to 1999, then served on the board from 2019 on.
He was employed at MetroLink as a bus driver from 1999-2017. Porter enjoyed doing shuttle service for the John Deere Classic this past July.
After growing up at Mt. Zion, Porter was ordained in the ministry June 3, 2000, became the church assistant pastor and presided over many weddings and funerals.
He was an East Moline interim alderman in 2022 and unsuccessfully ran in the April 2023 election. Porter’s great uncle, Crotis Teague (1926-2008), was a longtime alderman.
“His favorite part was just helping people,” Porter’s wife Audrey said Tuesday. “He did a lot of home visits, if someone lose a loved one. He was there for them.”
“He was the East Moline comfort blanket,” Shivers said.
“He was constantly ministering,” Porter’s youngest sibling Lanelle Brown said. Her granddaughter had a baby sister and that baby died before her 2nd birthday from a heart defect, and Porter left from dialysis and did that baby’s funeral. “It just speaks to his character. He was selfless, larger than life.”
“He was on a mission from God,” Audrey said of how he provided such comfort in times of grief. “He was on fire for God.”
“He was a perfect bridge, to talk to people that needed something,” Shivers said. “A lot of people, they don’t know who to look to or what to look to. He made it, even if you don’t believe. He was gonna give you something to believe in.”
“He wasn’t gonna speak anything but the Bible,” Audrey said. “He’s never gonna say anything that wasn’t in the Bible.”
Shivers said Porter wasn’t preachy, but more personal with people.
“I feel like I got his spirit and I’m trying to step up more,” Brown said of carrying on her brother’s legacy, noting he was a role model.
“He had more energy than I did and he was sick,” Audrey said.
Porter especially liked to speak as Martin Luther King, Jr., and would often recite the “I Have a Dream” speech around the federal King holiday every January.
“He moved a lot of people,” Brown said.
Brown said one of their siblings said: “Now we have to step up and take that role, because we counted on him to have that.” She called him the family’s “security blanket” and protector, a key role he served for the East Moline community.
“Hearing all these stories, I knew he was great for us – his wife and his kids and grandkids, but this man was like phenomenal for the community,” Brown said. “It’s more than a cliché, that we lost someone great.”
Shivers said a lot of his friends were touched by his dad leading their wedding.
His close friend Kelin Soliz posted on Facebook the day Porter died (with his 2018 wedding photo): “From basketball coach to a friend and role model, even lucky enough to have your words of blessing on my wedding day! May you rest in peace and watch over all of us!”
“He was preaching at funerals – when people are mourning deaths, that is hard to do,” Audrey said.
Brown said he lent his comic touch to those sad events, to lighten the mood.
“He was always going inside, taking care of people and comforting people,” Shivers said. “He knows how hard death was. He taught me about death at an early age, because of his kidneys. He would say, ‘Everybody got their time.’”
Porter took part in the church’s 106th anniversary party in early August.
Battling kidney disease
Shivers was also impressed with how his dad handled his kidney disease, which he battled for 25 years. Both of his kidneys failed, had dialysis treatment, and Porter had his first kidney transplant when he was in his early 40s (donated from one of his brothers).
That organ failed after 15 years and he was on dialysis again. KP had a second kidney transplant in Madison, Wis., in 2021.
He kept his positive attitude throughout it all because he “was a man of God,” his wife said.
“It was amazing,” Shivers said. “I don’t know how he did it.”
After 2021, Porter didn’t have to do dialysis, but he developed pneumonia, which is how he died on Sept. 11.
The day after the downtown Davenport building collapse (May 29), Porter was the only clergyman to go down and calm the protestors, Brown said.
“They were all emotional and angry,” Audrey said.
Audrey was most impressed by what he did Labor Day weekend, when they went to a car show in LeClaire (he loved Mustangs and Corvettes). Porter noticed a single mother with eight kids at the McDonald’s, after her car had broken down on the I-80 bridge on her way back to Detroit.
“That’s where he saw her and said, ‘This is out of place’,” Audrey said. “They stood out. He noticed that and he was a person that always gonna go and talk. He bought everyone their meal. He called me and said, ‘I’m gonna try and help her.’”
Porter paid for the mom and her family to stay in a hotel two days until her car was fixed and Audrey took her to Walmart to buy groceries.
“He stayed with the car until it got fixed,” she recalled, noting it was just a week before he passed. “He gave her gas money and money to go to Detroit. That was the last thing of what he was passionate about. It was like his last assignment.”
“This was him in a nutshell, what he always does,” Shivers said.
Porter took Brown to her first colonoscopy on Aug. 31, and told her if anything would happen to him, to help take care of Audrey.
“I feel so honored too,” Brown said. She was nervous to get that colonoscopy and he eased her mind, she said. “It was an important conversation. He had a message.”
“He had sickness for 25 years, and he was always there when people were nervous about surgery,” Shivers said. “He was a big advocate for kidney failure, making sure people got their checkups. He was 25 years of being sick.”
“I feel comforted by, not only did we know he was great, but all this community and all this support is a re-affirmation,” Brown said.
“He did everything he was supposed to do, and more,” Shivers said. “I’m just very, very thankful for what he did. He was a pillar in the community.”
Brown said that since he died, who does she call? “He was just my person. I feel that loss; it’s really weird right now,” she said.
“We have to lean on family and support mom,” Shivers said.
Those left to cherish his memory include his beloved wife, Audrey Porter, mother, Johnnie R. Brown, grandmother, Brooksie M. Teague, his children Devar, April (Luciano), Ashley, Rashaad, and Aaron; siblings Victoria, Anthony, Thomas Jr., Richard (Julie), Anitra, Michael, Lanelle, Princeton (Shaquana), Elden (Taquoya), Erland (Lavonda), and nine grandchildren.
To view his arrangements and to leave a memory, click HERE.