Elizabeth May


Harriert Elizabeth “Betty” Dewey May died peacefully on January 15, 2012, at her home in Chatham, N.J. She was 96.

Born in La Grange, Illinois, on November 16, 1915, Betty was the only child of Herbert Chester Dewey, an avid outdoorsman, and Abby Lydia Northrup Dewey, a faithful lay leader in the Episcopal Church. She attended public schools in La Grange, where she had many good friends, and she spent summers in northern Michigan at Camp Quetchua, which she loved for the sailing, sports, and friendships; one of her mentors there was the noted psychologist Helen Ross.

She attended Carleton College, then transferred to the University of Chicago, where she completed her undergraduate degree. She also completed graduate courses at Bank Street College, Columbia University.

She was a passionate modern dancer, spending summers in programs at Bennington, Vt., and studying with great names such as Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, and Erik Hawkins.

In 1940, she married Ernest M. May, who had completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago and ran a dyestuff company founded by his parents in Newark. After the honeymoon at the Del Coronado in San Diego, they spent their first time together on Christopher Street in New York City, then in Jockey Hollow (outside of Morristown, N.J.). finally, they settled in Summit, N.J. for the rest of their married lives. In 1952, they built the house at 57 Colt Road, and in 1954 they built their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, at 15 Red Valley Road in Chilmark.

Betty had many special friends from all the stages of her life. In Summit, she was a long-time active member of Calvary Episcopal Church, the Garden Club, the Junior League, the Beacon Hill Club, and, in Chilmark, the Blacksmith Valley Association. She was a fine tennis player, diver, sailor, and camper. She was always a “good sport” and had a strong sense of humor.

She volunteered for years at Overlook Hospital. In her role as supportive wife, she also came to love opera, especially Der Rosenkavalier; other favorites were the Red Shoes, Threepenny Opera, and the Nutcracker (she had the pleasure of seeing her great-granddaughter dance the part of Clara in November, 2011.) She loved her spectacular view overlooking Quitsa Pond, Menemsha, and the Elizabeth Islands in Chilmark.

Betty was a devoted wife, mother, grandparent, great-grandparent, and friend. She was a compassionate listener with a generous heart. She loved to travel, including family expeditions — ranging from taking a load of her kids’ friends swimming to more extensive ski trips to Vermont or Aspen to longer trips to various parts of the world with her husband — and family celebrations such as the 50th wedding anniversary festivities in Bermuda or her 90th birthday party celebration in New York City. She also loved her dogs, ranging from the first cocker spaniel “Tags” to the last golden retriever “Marcella,” her flower garden and bird watching. And, of course, she particulary loved children, especially her daughter Susan.

Betty is survived by her three children: Ernest Dewey May and his wife, Mary, of Pelham; James Northrup May and his wife Russell, of Washington D.C.; and Susan Elizabeth May, of Summit; ten grandchildren: Ernest Dewey May Jr. and his wife, Justine, of Glastonbury, Conn., Elizabeth May Goodell and her husband Todd, of Hopkinton and West Tisbury, Katherine May Waite and her husband, Sean, of Oak Bluffs, Caroline Anne May, of Philadelphia Penn., Christopher Mayhew May and his wife, Ngan, of New York City, Abigail Northrup Robles and her husband, Luis, of Reston Va., Deirdre Sidley Maitre and her husband, Roosevelt, of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Penn., Mehera Elizabeth May, of San Francisco Calif., James Eruch May and his wife, Megan, of Philadelphia, and William Merwan May, of Madison Wisc., and seven great-grandchildren: Thomas Goodell, Macayah Goodell, Liam Waite, Devin Waite, Isabel Robles, Alex Robles, and Conner Robles. She marveled that, starting out as an only child, she ended up, in her later years, as the emotional focal point of an extensive family group.

The funeral service will be held at Calvary Episcopal Church, at the corner of Woodland and deForest Avenues in Summit, N.J., on Sunday, January 22, 2012, at 2 pm. A reception will follow the service in the Parish Hall. Funeral arrangements are being managed by the Dangler Funeral Home, 309 Springfield Ave., Summit, NJ. Interment will be held this summer at the Chilmark Cemetery on Abel’s Hill.

We’re off once more in the Pinafore,

And tacking down for distant shore,

No matter how far away,

We’ll sail from Quetchua Bay!

We’ll turn and reach for the sandy beach,

The Pinafore’s hideaway.

Mom, Grandma, we know you’ve gotten to that “sandy beach” with all your countless friends and loved ones!

Donations may be sent to Calvary Episcopal Church in honor of Betty May.