William J. May, Sr., 89: Served in South Pole, avid ham radio operator

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HARPSWELL — William J. May, Sr., 89, died peacefully in his sleep at his Harpswell home Aug. 7, surrounded by his five beloved children.

On July 24, 1921, he was born in Philadelphia, Penn., the youngest child of Edgar and Florence May.  

After he graduated from high school in 1939, he worked in Philadelphia before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1942.  

While serving in the Navy during World War II, he was one of the earliest Navy scuba divers and served on several Navy battleships.  

On April 21, 1945, he married Grace Frances Reddy.

Together they raised their five children in Brunswick, and enjoyed traveling and spending time with family on their sailboat and at their summer camp in Bristol.

In 1956, he volunteered for duty with the U.S. International Geophysical South Pole Base, a military and scientific exploration of Little America, Antarctica.

While he was there, he developed his lifelong interest in amateur radio operation.

Upon returning in 1958, he was stationed at the Brunswick Naval Air Station, where he served the remainder of his Navy career as a senior chief electronics technician until he retired in 1964.

Following his retirement from the Navy, he began his second career as a supervisor of shipbuilding and repair, in Bath, until he retired in 1972 as a senior contract negotiator and administer.  

Since 1972 he has lived in the house he designed and built at Tondreau Point on the ocean in Harpswell.  It was the place he loved most in the world and the site of many family gatherings.

He was a longtime active member of the Brunswick Lodge of Elks.

Following his retirement, he became involved in licensed amateur radio operator activities, and enjoyed speaking with his many ham radio friends.  He volunteered many hours with the Military Auxiliary Radio System.

He was predeceased by his beloved wife Grace on April 26, 1983.
Surviving are his five children and their spouses, Joanne (May) and John W. Olson of Brunswick, William J. May, Jr., of Bath, Christine (May) and Richard Charette of Topsham, Timothy J. and Jeanine May of Brunswick, and Mary Alice (May) Sherwood of Topsham; his 10 grandchildren and their spouses, Elizabeth (Desjardins) and Marc Hagan, Travis and Lynn May, Adam Desjardins, Thomas May, Matthew Charette, Jennifer Charette, Nathan Sherwood, Ryan and Megan Dall, Stephen May, Brian Sherwood; and three great-grandchildren, Emma Grace, Abigail Frances, and William John Hagan; several nieces and nephews; and many good friends and neighbors, especially his best friend and companion for the past 25 years, Roberta Rasch and her family of Freeport.

The family will receive friends from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick.  A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 12 at the First Parish Church in Brunswick.  

A committal service with military honors, will be at 9 a.m., Monday, Aug. 16, at the Maine Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery, Civic Center Drive, Augusta.

Memorial donations can be made to the Cundy’s Harbor Fire and Rescue, 837 Cundy’s Harbor Road, Harpswell, ME 04079.  

Condolence can be expressed at brackettfuneralhome.com.

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