Lincoln County News | Newcastle, ME
Monday, May 2, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17

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home : obituaries : obituaries May 2, 2016

10/15/2013 1:37:00 PM
Blair Burwell May

Blair Burwell May, formerly of Waldoboro, passed away on Oct. 2.

Blair was an only child, born in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1927. She was adored by her parents, Mildred and Blair Burwell. Displaying an early flair for the unconventional, she was particularly close to the domestic help, Felix and Emma. They doted on her something akin to a beloved niece, and she held them in equally high regard.

Blair attended the Bartram School in Jacksonville where she had contrasting experiences with the primary instructors. The math teacher was the bane of Blair's existence. However, the English teacher instilled in Blair a lifelong love of reading and language. The language instruction included a rigorous course of grammar, and Blair would demand excruciating adherence to the fundamentals of speech.

Despite her disdain of math, her sharp intellect led her to graduate from high school at 16. Though a notable achievement, Blair found early entry to Sweet Briar College to be a bit awkward, as the women in her class were one or two years older than she. Nevertheless, she again excelled in her studies and became a laboratory technician in an era when many women of her social standing eschewed trade or professional work. After graduation, roommate and friend Ernestine accompanied Blair to Boston where they worked in a lab.

Back in Jacksonville, Blair fell in love with, and married, Dr. Robert D. May. A honeymoon trip to the Laurentian Mountains of Canada found them returning through Pennsylvania, which led them to settle and set up a practice in Wayne. Busy years followed building the practice and bearing five children in ten years. Robert, Beville (Sis), Blair (Tump), Chris, and Caroline were raised on Pugh Road. Blair would continue to live there for 50 years.

In 1967 the marriage ended in divorce, with Blair in the now familiar, but then unusual, role as single mom. After what must have been a difficult transition, navigated with her friend Betty, Blair found a calling in raising an assortment of wild and domestic animals and humans. A motherless squirrel was housed in the shower, a raccoon had a swing in the kitchen, while a bereft boy would find refuge in the barn. A tender hand ministered to the four-legged creatures, while an open ear and mind was available to the two-legged variety.

Long after the children were on their own, Blair opened her home to young men transitioning through life. There were students, recent grads and the recently divorced. All would find comfort, solace and freedom on the third floor of her Pugh Road home.

Blair was most comfortable in slacks, but loved to set a formal table in flowers, china and silver. She had an uncanny knack for inviting disparate people over for dinner and drinks, where they would find unlikely conviviality in each other's company.

Having been raised in the heat and humidity of Jacksonville, she found special pleasure in Maine. After renovating an 18th century farmhouse in the mid coast town of Waldoboro, she built a post and beam house next door. For nearly 20 years a parade of relatives and friends would seek her company Down East.

Blair lived a life of giving and generosity. She was keenly aware that she had been given much, and felt an obligation to use that advantage to help others. There were dozens of recipients, from churches to friends and relatives. Perhaps she was best at the anonymous gift to someone desperately in need. One of her daughters knew of a motherless boy who would really benefit from a summer camp experience. Blair discretely paid the tuition and outfitted him in all manner of clothing and gear.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Heifer Projects International, or St. Giles Episcopal Church of Jefferson.

A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m., Sun., Nov. 17 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1105 East Lincoln Highway, Exton, Penn.



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