‘Funny, generous, and kind:’ Friends remember Tri-Cities theater legend Porky Thomsen

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — You know the saying, “all the world’s a stage?” Well, one Tri-Cities man’s life epitomized just that.

Ralph Lee Thomsen, better known as “Porky,” passed away Saturday. He was 77 years old.

His grandmother coined the nickname when he was a child, calling his albeit smaller twin sister, “Peewee.”

Little did she know “Porky” would turn into one of the Tri-Cities’ most recognizable names.

Thomsen began acting in the 70s and over multiple decades, created a career for himself.

“He was funny, generous, and kind,” said his longtime friend Ginny Quinley.

Quinley, a communications professor at the Columbia Basin College, is also a drama director and the artistic director of Summer Showcase, both at the college.

She and Thomsen worked together on dozens of plays which is how she realized early on he was special.

“He was great,” Quinley said. “No matter on stage or off stage, people had a good time when they were around Porky.”

One of her favorite memories with him was during a show called “The Fantasticks.”

A local actor had fallen sick backstage and the play was set to start in less than an hour.

“I called Porky, and I said, ‘hey, what are you doing?'” Quinley said. “He goes, ‘I’m eating dinner.”

But just thirty minutes later, he was on stage, filling in the role.

“He’s such a professional, amazing actor,” Quinley said.

Joyce Bean, another longtime friend of Thomsen’s and a director of the Richland Player’s, recalled that exact night as she sat in the audience.

“I looked up and said, ‘there’s Porky!'” Bean said, laughing. “You can count on Porky to come through with a wonderful performance.”

Quinley added that it didn’t matter what role he had — he played them all expertly.

“He could steal the show, not in a bad way, but by simply being so fully the character,” Quinley said. “He did so much to bring good quality theater to Tri-Cities.”

Bean agreed, noting that “he was such a performer.”

“Whatever it took, he was going to do. His word was his bond on his work ethic,” Bean said.

Besides acting locally, Thomsen was also a spokesperson for Toyota Tri-Cities, a farmer, and a philanthropist.

He even toured the country for decades, performing in multiple one-man shows.

The first was called “Bully” which was based on the life of President Theodore Roosevelt. The second, S. A. Flyin, earned him a Cable Ace Award.

But throughout all of his success, friends say he stayed humble.

“He was a professional and we were really lucky to have him act so much in our community,” Quinley said.

Toyota of Tri-Cities posted a statement on Facebook reading:

“Today, with a heavy heart and extreme sadness we share the passing of our beloved friend, colleague and spokesperson of nearly 20-years, Porky Thomsen. Porky’s passing has no doubt left a huge hole in the hearts of his many dear friends and family in and around our community just as it has here at Toyota of Tri-Cities.
We will cherish all the wonderful years of friendship and fun we had together and will always admire his can-do spirit and willingness to give back; not only in the Tri-Cities but throughout the entire Columbia Basin.
Here at Toyota of Tri-Cities the Marquart Family and our entire team has lost a very devoted friend and colleague. Our heartfelt condolences and paryers go out to all of Porky’s family, especially his beautiful wife Terri.
So long good friend. You touched all our lives in a way we will never forget and for that, we thank you. Rest in Peace Porky! ❤

“Give ’em heck, Porky, because you’ve certainly given us a great run for our money in your lifetime here so in the next act, give ’em heck,” Quinley said.

A Celebration of Life will be held this Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel in Kennewick from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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