KILAUEA — More than 500 people gathered under a white tent at Wai Koa Plantation Saturday to pay tribute to Bill Porter, the founder of E-Trade who spent the last decade of his life pouring his money and visionary thinking into projects designed to benefit the community on Kauai’s North Shore, his favorite place in the world.
Porter died Oct. 14 at his home in Princeville, surrounded by family and friends. He was 86 years old.
The mood Saturday was celebratory. Hawaiian chants, prayers, song and dance marked the start of a 90-minute ceremony.
Guests at the public memorial were treated to food, wine and Porter’s favorite brand of cigar.
Also available for guests to take home were copies of “I Did It My Way,” Porter’s 709-page autobiography that he lamented was perhaps too long. He feared no one would ever take the time to read it.
“So I want to take this time to thank you all for being here, and let you know that Bill is doing great,” said Joan Porter, Bill Porter’s wife and partner in philanthropy.
The tent reverberated with loud applause.
“We were meditating the next day after he passed and I heard that he was in a very joyful place and not to worry,” she said. “He said, ‘If you have to feel sad, OK, but this is really something out here.’”
Though widely known for revolutionizing stock trading, Bill Porter was perhaps better known on Kauai as a straight shooter, a quiet mentor and one of the North Shore’s most influential altruists.
Frank and humble, he worked behind the scenes to materialize a wide range of philanthropic visions. Once things were up and running, he stepped aside, putting others in charge of his ventures so he would be free to start up something else.
Anaina Hou, an expansive community park in Kilauea featuring farmers markets, mini golf and a hiking trail, is one of the Porters’ most recognized contributions to the North Shore.
In addition to the acreage for the Kilauea park, the Porters also opened up to the public the Stone Dam on Wai Koa Plantation. It was Porter’s favorite spot on the island. Before he fell ill due to complications from age, he could be found at the dam daily, a cigar and his Bernese Mountain dogs at play.
Another of Bill and Joan’s philanthropic endeavors on Wai Koa Plantation is Kauai Fresh Farms, which specializes in supplying the island with produce that’s organic and local. The farm grows lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouses. It is the first farm on the island to gain food-safety certification through the state Department of Agriculture.
The Porters also provide the funding for Puukumu, a private, independent middle and high school serving families on the North Shore from Haena to Moloaa.
Yoshi L’Hote, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association, said the couple’s willingness to open their private land to the public has been an immeasurable gift to the community.
“I will make sure that this community will carry the torch of his hard work … and that his legacy will continue,” L’Hote said.