Susan Elizabeth May, of Chatham, N.J., and Chilmark, died peacefully in her sleep in the early hours of Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2020, of natural causes, primarily heart failure.
Susan was born on June 6, 1952, and she spent most of her life in Summit and Chatham, N.J., and Chilmark. At her very core, Sue May was a kindhearted, giving person who would always have a freshly baked pie or batch of cookies on offer anytime friends or family would come to visit. She was notorious for her gourmet cooking and her hand-knit hats, which she traditionally gave to her siblings, nieces, and nephews each Christmas. She would also knit beautiful sweaters for family members as well. She always made sure each person had a gift.
Sue was a passionate and prolific artist, who began each day in the very early hours with a new watercolor design. Her family members and friends are fortunate to have many of her paintings displayed on their walls, and over 300 of them may be viewed on her website, susanmayartist.com. Many others were able to purchase her paintings as well, as she sold them each summer, along with her original “Mr. Mole” books for children, published by her niece Dede, at the Chilmark Flea Market on Martha’s Vineyard.
After graduating from Summit High School, Sue May earned her B.S. in nutrition from the University of Vermont and her M.S. in nutrition education from Teachers’ College at Columbia University. She worked at Head Start in Lambertville, N.J., and for the Wesley Center Preschool in Summit. Her background in art came from studying at the University of Vermont, the Art Students League of New York, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, the Ducret School of Art in Plainfield, N.J., and from the New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts in Summit.
She was a summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard all her life, beginning at the age of 6 weeks. As a teenager, she worked at Humphrey’s Bakery in West Tisbury. Later in life, she captured the unique beauty of the Island in hundreds of watercolor paintings. Her “Mr. Mole” book series teaches good nutrition to preschoolers.
Sue, like her mom, loved to host Christmas as a family holiday. Sue purchased gifts way ahead of time, and knitted hats — everyone has at least six. Brothers Ernie and Jim have world-class collections of high-fashion neckties. She was a gourmet cook, and loved preparing a luxurious holiday feast — usually a turkey with all the fixings — preceded by so many delicious appetizers that there was hardly any room for the main meal. Her other specialties included the famous May roast beef, Grandma Dewey’s popovers (with beach plum jelly) and chocolate chip cookies, swordfish baked in special sauce, ratatouille, poached sole, and apple pie. She frequently sent out beautiful Christmas cards created from close-up detail of her paintings.
In her younger years, she was an accomplished horsewoman and figure skater, and she sang in Howard Vogel’s choir at Calvary Church in Summit. In her later years she cared for her father, Ernie M. May, and then her mother, Betty May — shopping, going for almost daily rides to Jockey Hollow, medical appointments, visits with friends, mandatory attendance at the Metropolitan Opera, summers on the Vineyard. Some of her happiest years were spent doing art with Nura Petrov in New Hope, Pa. Her favorite music was Bob Dylan.
Though Sue experienced serious health challenges, she was always resolute to overcome them, and she lived her life with optimism and determination. She will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved her. She will long be remembered by her family and by her very numerous friends.
Susan May is survived by her brother Ernest D. May and his wife Mary (Amherst); her brother James N. May and his wife Russell (Walnut Creek, Calif.); her nieces Elizabeth May Goodell (West Tisbury), Katherine Mayhew May-Waite and her husband Sean (Falmouth), Caroline May (Philadelphia), Abigail Robles and her husband Luis (Reston, Va.), Deirdre Maitre and her husband Roosevelt (Havertown, Pa.), and Mehera McCusker and her husband Brian (Rancho Cordova, Calif.); her nephews, Ernest D. May Jr. (Franklin), Christopher May and his wife Ngan (New York), James E. May and his wife Megan (Ardmore, Pa.), and William May and his wife Jenny (Madison, Wisc.); her cousins Robert Strauss, Arthur Strauss, Carol Sotiropoulos, and Dr. Walter Strauss; her grand-nieces Macayah Goodell, Isabel Robles, Quinn May, and Fiona May; her grand-nephews Thomas Goodell, Liam Waite, Devin Waite, Alex Robles, Connor Robles, Ryan May, James May, Colin McCusker, and Declan McCusker; and great-grand-nephews Halian Resendes and Beau Resendes. Almost as important as family, Sue had lifelong friends, mainly from Summit, Chatham, and Martha’s Vineyard, among them Mary Arnold Little, Sally and Hans Solmssen, Sharon Shrensel, Jean Hughes, Stephanie Kramer, Gus Wheeler, Wendy Weldon, Emmis and Dede Gadd, Margaret Penicaud, Barbara Lee, Charlie and Eli Parker, Nura Petrov, Elizabeth Capers, Tara Gray, Fran Finnigan, John Holladay from Featherstone, Mary Ellen DeJohn and the Wesley Girls (from the Wesley Center), and Cris Mayhew, Annette Anthony, Judy Schubert, and Gwen Nichols from the Chilmark Flea Market. In her final years, Sue was lovingly cared for by Akosua Darkoaa and Mary Newton.
Arrangements are by the Bradley, Brough & Dangler Funeral Home in Summit, N.J.: bradleyfuneralhomes.com/susan-elizabeth-may. A memorial service and burial are planned for summer 2021 in Chilmark. In lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Susan May may be directed to the Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha’s Vineyard: featherstoneart.org/donate-now.html.