Stephen May
(1931 - 2016)

Stephen May

New York, United States of America
July 30, 1931

District Of Columbia, United States of America
March 31, 2016

art, politics, travel, sports: basketball, baseball, football
Stephen May, 84, independent art historian, writer and lecturer, passed away on March 31, 2016 at Georgetown University Hospital. The cause of death was complications following surgery in early February.

Born in Rochester, New York, on July 30, 1931 to University of Rochester professor Arthur J. May and Hilda Jones May, he graduated from the Harley School in Rochester, and earned a bachelor’s degree in American Civilization, Phi Beta Kappa, from Wesleyan University in 1953. After graduation and a cross-country road trip with two classmates, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. In his downtime while stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, he came to Washington to observe the U.S. House and Senate in session, an experience that inspired him in his first career in politics and government. He received his JD degree from Georgetown University Law School in 1961.

After the Army he joined the staff of U.S. Rep. Kenneth B. Keating (NY), and later served as Keating’s Executive Assistant in the Senate. Back in New York, May was a member of the Rochester City Council, 1966 – 1973, and served as the city’s 62nd Mayor, 1970 – 1973. Among other roles in state politics in the 1970s, he was Chairman of the New York State Board of Elections. In 1981 he returned to Washington as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development until 1988.

Upon retiring from government service, Mr. May pursued his life-long interest in American art, culture, and historic preservation and built a rewarding second career writing and lecturing about art. His passion was American painting and sculpture, especially Modernism, but his interests broadened to include European art; sport; art movements; architecture; museums; contemporary art, and the preservation of artist homes and studios. He reveled in the opportunity to share overlooked and under-appreciated talent with his audience. His articles appeared in dozens of regional and national publications, from American Artist to the Washington Post. He led art tours and lectured in museums, historical societies, senior residences, among other venues around the country. His work was infused with admiration for artists and their role in society.

Mr. May divided his time between his home in the District of Columbia and a farm in Union, Maine that his parents purchased in 1926. He engaged actively in the art and museum communities in both places. The Maine property, which includes a mid-19th century farmhouse, continues to be the favorite gathering place for successive generations of the May family.

Steve loved his life. He will be remembered as a gentleman, and for his civility, charm, optimism, wit, physical stamina, keen interest in politics, and especially for his enthusiasm for his work.

He was predeceased by his brother, Christopher May, in October, 2015. In addition to three nephews and a niece and their families, he leaves behind his wife, Kathryn B. Wilson, whom he married in 2007. Their marriage was the first for both bride (56) and groom (75), and they were touched when, following the wedding announcement, they received a flood of well-wishes from friends and strangers alike—many senior single people—who were inspired in hope for themselves and late-blooming relationships. Indeed, the nine-year marriage was one of happiness and devotion.

o o o o o o o o

Interment of ashes will occur in a private ceremony in Maine this summer. For more information and to add remembrances for his wife, go to Direct written notes to Katie Wilson, 4101 Cathedral Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20016.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: The Harley School, Rochester, NY; The Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, ME; or the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

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Guest Book (9 entries)
Always on my mind!
Helga (Former friend)
October 16th, 2016
“There is going to be a resurrection......” (Acts 24:15) The pain, the grief, and the feelings of helplessness can seem unbearable. May Jehovah the God of all comfort comfort the May family.You are in my prayers.
Blake Holly
June 20th, 2016
You shared Stephen well and helped him to enjoy his sharing of knowledge and his enthusiasms for Life. You were a perfect wife; it is no less than wonderful that you found one another and knew it! Perhaps you will be in Maine again this summer. We hope so. And, we hope to share a little of your time, if situations permit. Blessings...
Dave & Suzy Shaub (Friends)
May 5th, 2016
I know that Katie and Steve had a deep love and appreciation for one another.
They were meant to be together, for however briefly their lives entertwined.
I am so sorry for your loss, Katie. The joyous life you and Steve shared was an inspiration to many.
With Love, and much sadness, Rosanna Ottenstein
Rosanna Ottenstein (friend of Katie)
April 16th, 2016
I did not know him personally but had the opportunity to enjoy a few of his art lectures. He had a passion and knowledge for art and that came through clearly. I am sure he will be greatly missed by his family and friends and those of us who only knew him through lectures.
Marie Tuccille
April 13th, 2016
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"We miss you already, Steve, my gentle and charming brother-in-law."
Jane Hanson
April 7th, 2016


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