Charitable Southold Citizen Elinor May Dies at 96

Elinor May
Elinor May

Elinor Bernadette Murphy May was born on May 10, 1926 and died peacefully at home on May 14 at the age of 96, surrounded by loved ones.

Elinor was born to Bill and Marie Murphy, and grew up with her older brother and sister, also Bill and Marie, in Crestwood, NY. Following an idyllic and well-behaved childhood and a reportedly mischievous adolescence, she attended Georgian Court College. It was during that time that she met her only true love and partner for life, John May.

The two married on September 17, 1949. They made their first home in the iconic postwar suburb of Levittown. There, Elinor began dedicating her long life to building community and family.

Elinor and John’s first three children, Danny, Rob, and Paul were born while the family lived in Levittown, but soon more room was needed, so they moved the growing family to Roslyn, where their Red Ground Road neighbors became lifetime friends. Mal, Jeff, Kathy, Barb, Joan, and Nancy joined the family during the Roslyn years. The children all attended St. Mary’s School, and the Mays became an integral part of the St. Mary’s Catholic Parish.

At the same time, Elinor and John began spending more summer weekends on the North Fork with their best friends, Bob and Nancy Pettit. The Mays built their cherished cabin at Cedar Beach next door to the Pettits in 1959, and also formed lasting connections with their Southold community of friends.

In 1965, more space was once again sought, and the family found a sprawling old house on Hitchcock Lane in Old Westbury. The household happily added Peter, Jack, and Suzy to the family. Elinor’s nieces and nephews were always as much a part of the family as their own children. Pam, Sharon, Kathy, Jerry, and Jane Murphy, along with Greg, Ken, and Dave Judge, Karen Petillo, Curt, John and Debra Lundberg remain like siblings to Elinor and John’s children.

Raising 11 children was all-consuming, but Elinor never neglected her many passions. She loved gardening, painting, beach time, ice skating, and travel. She loved to swim, and competed in the Top Notch Triathlon multiple times, on a three-generation team. She was an accomplished pianist, and participated in various church choirs and the North Fork Chorale. She shared her natural gift of writing as the founding editor of the church newsletter, The Grapevine. She also wrote the “Redground Report” for the Roslyn News.

Elinor considered her children-in-law, Peggy, Kate, Matt, Paul, Maureen, and Melissa as her own. She enjoyed doting on her growing brood of grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all of whom she absolutely adored.

Elinor was generous to all, and fun to be around, often befriending her teenage children’s friends, such as Lou, Andrea, Joanne, and Rick. She also loved the family’s many pets: dogs, cats, a pony, a rabbit, even ducks. Every household Elinor lived in was full of life and love.

She never hesitated to invite those in her life who were in need of a home, to live with the family. Elinor is remembered for her quick wit and sarcasm, an art she perfected on her family. She is also remembered for graciously hosting celebrations of everything from graduation and cast parties to New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Twelfth Night, St. Patrick’s and Doldrums parties as well as wedding receptions for her children and grandchildren.

John and Elinor remained in Old Westbury until they moved permanently to Southold in 1988. There, Elinor continued her many social and charitable interests, and added to those establishing a resource for her beloved VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons.)

Elinor was named The Suffolk Times 2001 Civic Person of the Year for her many contributions to the people of Eastern Long Island.

Elinor lived with Lewy-body dementia for the last 12 years of her life. Her daughter Nancy had been Elinor’s dedicated, primary caregiver throughout, with the support and love of Elinor’s family, and from her loving caregivers, especially Pat Martin, who brought Elinor great joy. The bright sparkle of Elinor’s blue eyes, her love of music, and her enduring dignity defined her until she took her final breath.

Preceded in death by her infant son Danny, her parents and siblings, her niece Jane, and by her husband John, Elinor is survived by 11 children, six children-in-law, 29 grandchildren, five grandchildren-in-law, eight great-grandchildren, and countless friends and admirers.

The liturgy of Christian Burial was held on Wednesday, May 18 at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Southold. Officiated by Father John Barrett.

Interment followed at St. Patrick’s R.C Cemetery on Main Bayview Road in Southold.

In Lieu flowers, donations may be made to CAST; P.O. Box 1566, Southold, New York 11971.

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