Taylor Swift and her family joined a rural Missouri Catholic family for some festivities the day after Christmas.
Cyrus Porter (a.k.a. “Popo”), is a World War Two veteran and a huge Taylor Swift fan. A local news story about his love for Taylor went viral earlier in the year. So when his daughter gathered the family, sans grandparents, to tell them that a huge surprise was coming, expectations ran high.
“We all know that Taylor Swift does that, that she surprises her fans,” Popo’s granddaughter, Melissa Hunter said.
Hunter went back to her St.-Louis area home, then made the two hour drive to New Madrid, Missouri the following day. She said there was a nervous energy as the family gathered on the back porch and sang songs together.
“We’re singing these songs, just waiting, then all of sudden [my aunt’s] going okay, we are ready,” Hunter said. “Then she came bursting through the blinds. Taylor Swift comes in and we’re all screaming.”
Hunter said Swift went immediately to Popo and introduced herself and her parents. She explained that her father had seen Popo’s news segment, and was especially touched because his father had been a World War Two veteran.
Then something interesting happened. Hunter said that as the initial shock of seeing a celebrity wore off, she was surprised at how normal the day seemed.
“It was so surreal, and yet also such an ordinary experience for my grandparent’s house. There’s always a million of us there. It’s always loud, and there’s always something going on,” Hunter said.
Popo started telling stories about the war. Someone handed Swift a baby and offered her a tour of the house.
“It was weird, because there was this major celebrity, and yet there was still something very ordinary about the feel of it,” Hunter said.
Hunter said that Popo is to thank for the family culture of hospitality. He grew up during the Great Depression, and has memories of inviting friends with no food to his house for dinner. All her life, he’s invited townspeople without family to join their family dinners. He taught his nine children, 23 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren to have open doors and open hearts.
“He is my favorite person in the world,” Hunter said. “He has a real sense of gratitude for what he has, but also joy in the everyday dedication to your work and your family.”
Swift explained that she had left her family gathering in Nashville to visit Popo, and that she needed to get back because they were holding dinner for her and her parents. She took some selfies, handed out guitar picks, and then left after one song.
Hunter said the experience was phenomenal , and not just for her family.
“Everybody’s excited that Popo met Taylor Swift, but I’m excited that Taylor Swift got to meet Popo,” Hunter said.