Bell Tower of Fame Award to pharmacy entrepreneur Charlie Porter

2019 Bell Tower of Fame Award recipient Charlie Porter and Carole Custer, award chair

The 40th Bell Tower Festival opened Friday evening with the presentation of Bell Tower of Fame Award to Charlie Porter, a native of Jefferson and one of the founders of Medicap Pharmacies.

This isn’t the first time Porter has been lauded in his hometown. Porter, a 1965 Jefferson Community High School graduate, was homecoming king and king of the Charity Ball. Porter was MVP, honorary captain and Hustler of the Year for the Ram basketball team his senior season.

“It’s the leadership and team-building he displayed as a student that helped him build a network of franchised family pharmacies across the nation,” Carole Custer said during the award presentation.

The Bell Tower of Fame Award recognizes people whose professional or personal accomplishments internationally, nationally or statewide, have brought great pride to Greene County. Recipients of the award must have resided in the county for a period during their lifetimes.

Porter graduated from Drake University as a pharmacist in 1970. In 2003, there were 200 Medicap pharmacies in 38 states. The stores grossed $400 million in sales that year. Porter was president and chief operating officer when he and his partners decided to sell the chain to Cardinal Health.

His business associates, friends and family find him to be “bold.” “He understands and trusts people, and treats people with respect,” noted one nomination.

“He found a way to motivate others to make decisions, discover innovative solutions and deliver results,” another letter stated.

Charlie Porter, 2019 Bell Tower of Fame Award recipient

In accepting the award, Porter credited Floyd Mahanay – a customer on his paper route – with first instilling in him an entrepreneurial spirit by giving him two $1 coins as a Christmas tip. Porter recalled purchasing a pair of 3-wheel ice cream carts when he was 14. He and a friend rode them around Jefferson. He said he didn’t make much money with that first retail effort, “but there were a lot of lessons learned that I used in the future,” he said.

He worked at Knapper’s Standard Station and said he learned the value of personal service there. He was a lifeguard and swimming teacher at the municipal pool for two summers – he learned patience and negotiating skills teaching youngsters to swim, he said.

His wife Pat, the former Pat Day, was homecoming queen when Charlie was homecoming king. He said they’ve been side-by-side since geometry in 10th grade. “Both Pat and I are very appreciative of the strong foundation we received here in Jefferson and Greene County. We’re proud to say our home town is Jefferson, Iowa,” he said in conclusion.

Before Custer presented the Bell Tower of Fame Award, Doug Rieder spoke briefly of the origin of the festival 40 years ago. He and Custer are the only two of the first organizers still livin in Jefferson.

2019 Bell Tower Festival chair Pete Russell

Festival chair Pete Russell recognized committee members for the 2019 Festival – Annie Ostendorf, Philip and Bridgette Heisterkamp on entertainment; Amy Milligan and Angie Gingery on Reunion Rendezvous; Jacque Andrew, Deb Geisler, Keith Van Beek and Tori Riley on publicity and marketing; Pat Richards as Bell Tower Community Foundation rep on the committee; Carole Custer for the Bell Tower of Fame Award; Becky Armstrong and Beth Downs on Bell Tower Brew Station; James Wasson and Joyce Rasmussen on vendors; Clay Ross on logistics; Doug Rieder; Doug Hawn on sound; and Don Van Gilder as “the voice of the Festival.”

Peg Raney, secretary of the Bell Tower Community Foundation provided a brief update on the tower, and Deb McGinn, chair of Jefferson Matters: Main Street’s Tower View Team highlighted the art installations around the downtown square.

The Bell Tower Festival continues Saturday with the Rotary Club of Jefferson’s Bell Tower Festival Parade being a highlight. The Isiserettes will be in the parade and will perform on Lincoln Way afterwards. Entertainment is slated throughout the day and well into the night.

All entertainment is free, including several inflatables for children. The Bell Tower Brew Station will be open from 12:30 pm until 1 am Sunday.

Click here for the complete schedule.

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