Marlene Porter Berger, a champion of the Homestead community, and the mother of Jeff Porter who served as Mayor of Homestead, passed away on Friday, November 13th after a short illness.
Marlene was born on November 11, 1936 and was raised in Homestead by her parents Harmon M. Keen and Ellen Hilliard Keen. Marlene also had a sister, Alene R. Keen.
While attending Redland/South Dade High School, Marlene was involved in leadership, cheerleading and the music programs. She was a soprano soloist, student conductor and drum major.
She went on to become one of the most requested sopranos in Homestead social and community activities.
Marlene was a member of Silver Palm United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. She served as a church elder, teacher, worship leader and choir member.
Ann McCallister, her lifelong friend remembers Marlene stating, “We’ve known each other since grade school, such a wonderful person. Marlene and my husband Red sang in the choir together at Silver Palm. Marlene sang beautifully, while Red just made a joyful noise. We so enjoyed our many years of Friday nights at the Capri. Everyone from Homestead would be there, and Marlene would be working the tables, visiting with everyone. We love her and always will, and Ken too.”
Marlene was a successful business executive in both personal and commercial accounts. She was a highly respected leader in the financial services industry and led trailblazing initiatives in human resource management. She served as Chairperson of the Florida Banker’s Association Education Committee. She
retired from Community Bank of South Florida as Senior Vice President after 24 years of service.
Her friend and colleague Julie Romero spoke strongly about the impact Marlene had on both her personally and for the community. “Marlene was instrumental in making me the person I am today. I was new to Homestead and my husband was asked to sit on the Chamber Board. He asked me if I would like to do it. I said yes not knowing that in several months our world and life as we knew it was about to change forever with Hurricane Andrew. She led the way for rebuilding. She was also instrumental in saving the base and making our community what it is today,” said Romero, “On a personal note, she took the time to show me how it was done, to lead me by example, to mentor me and mold me and to do it all with the love of Christ. She strived for us to see the potential we each had and how we could use those gifts to make this world a better place. She was a force to be reckoned with and nothing seemed impossible to her. With that beautiful smile and that warm heart, she made an impact in our lives and our community. Homestead would not be what it is today without all her hard work. God bless her.”
As a community activist, Marlene served on the board of numerous charitable and civic organizations, including as Board Chairperson of the Homestead Chamber of Commerce.
Bob and Meda Jensen shared their thoughts, “Meda and I knew Marlene on four different levels: Successful widowed single mother, church choir soprano and soloist, community business leader, and banking competitor. Marlene had a wonderful musical gift which she shared with the congregation of Silver Palm United Methodist Church frequently as a soprano soloist. For years, Marlene and Meda sat side by side in the choir loft. Marlene was a full-time Christian. Marlene raised two sons of whom she was rightly very proud and then as a grandmother of two grandsons. She loved her grandsons so much that she moved to North Carolina to be near them and to share in their lives. And, of course, son Jeff became Mayor of Homestead. Marlene was a long-time business leader as first a board member and later as President of the then Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce. And lastly, Marlene was a banking competitor. She could be very competitive and fair and cooperative all at the same time.”
Her various awards and recognitions include: Citizen of the Year (twice), Businesswoman of the Year (the Athena Award), proclamations from the City of Homestead and Miami-Dade County and was honored with a Key to the City of Homestead.
“Marlene Porter Berger was more than a friend and mentor, but a mother to me. Kind, brilliant, compassionate, assertive, loving, unselfish, giving, beautiful soul and community leader.” said her dear friend, Linda Fagan.
In 2015, Marlene and Ken moved to Fletcher, NC. She remained active in community affairs as a member of the board of Carolina Community Concerts and Mills River United Methodist Church.
Marlene was preceded in death by her parents and sister; her first husband, Paul Porter, and her son Philip Porter.
She is survived by her loving husband of 32 years, Ken Berger, her best friend and partner until her death. She is also survived by her sons:
Jeffrey Porter of Homestead, FL, and his wife Cindy Sincore Porter. Jeff served as Mayor of Homestead and on Homestead City Council. Her son Michael Porter of Horse Shoe, NC and his wife Tricia McLaughlin Porter. Through marriage she gained a daughter, Dana-Marie (Berger) Lee and a son, John Paul Berger. She was blessed with six grandchildren - Cody Porter, Kyle Porter, Mitchell Lee, Savanna Lee, Lila Berger, and Whittaker Berger.
She leaves behind their well-loved Sir Oliver (Ollie) Chance, the beautiful Maltese pup that she and Ken adopted in 2014.
Marlene Porter Berger will be interred at Mills River United Methodist Church cemetery.