November 20, 2012
Kenneth W. May, retired homebuilder and real estate investor, died peacefully in his home in North Palm Beach, Florida, on November 14, 2012. He was 84. Ken is survived by his beloved wife of 65 years, Mae Margaret May; his sister, Glenis May Smith, of Belfry, Kentucky; his children, K. Rodney May (Maria del Rosario Vargas-May), of Tampa, Florida, and Lisa D. May (Glenn Jackson) of Takoma Park, Maryland; and four grandchildren Andrew May, Tampa, Florida, Lauren May Staley (Jeffrey Staley), Lynchburg, Virginia, Thomas M. Collier, III, New York City, and Ian Jackson, Takoma Park, Maryland. Ken was preceded in death by his son, David Alan May; by his parents, Roland May and Cansas May Scott; and by his sister, Virginia May Loftis.
Ken was born in 1928, in a coal camp in Hardy, Kentucky. His father, Roland, and his eight uncles were coal miners. The nine May brothers formed their own baseball team in the United Mine Workers’ league in the 1930s. Sadly, Ken’s father was killed in a mining accident in 1944. Ken graduated from Belfry High School in 1945, and he enlisted in the Navy in early 1946. Shortly after being discharged, he met Mae Margaret Lilly in nearby Williamson, West Virginia. After a brief courtship, they were married on August 30, 1947. They honeymooned in Miami in early 1948 and got their first taste of the beauty of South Florida.
As newlyweds, Ken and Mae moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where both their sons were born. He owned a neighborhood grocery store, where goods were sold on credit. Ken worked long hours and made deliveries to his customers’ homes. Eventually, the advent of large cash-and-carry grocery stores led Ken to sell his business and move his young family to Lake Worth, Florida, in 1956.
In 1958, he joined North Palm Beach Properties at a salary of $75 per week. Ken worked out of the North Palm Beach Village Hall, selling lots and homes at the very beginnings of the beautifully planned community. In 1960, he and John Doran began the successful firm of Doran and May. His daughter was born the following year.
Ken liked to learn as much as he could about people he met and would remember personal details years later. Ken often said that he knew how to read people, which made him an effective negotiator. His people skills made him a natural in buying, selling, and trading real estate. Ken found creative ways to enable young Pratt & Whitney engineers to qualify for home loans. Smelling a deal, he sometimes took down payments in kind: a shotgun, a piano, a fishing camp.
When Doran and May acquired some vacant lots, Ken left Doran and May to become a full time custom-home builder under the banner “Kenco Homes, Inc.” Until Ken retired in the early 1980s, Kenco was one of the most sought-after homebuilders in the north end of Palm Beach County. He kept the business small, operating out of his home; Mae was the bookkeeper and CFO. He built the family home, which is still in the family, in 1965 in only eight weeks. Ken sold real estate as Ken May Realty and formed K. May Construction for commercial projects: apartments, office buildings, and condominiums.
Ken and Mae delighted in the accomplishments of their children. Proud moments included their son’s investiture as a federal judge and their daughter’s joining NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, as well as the birth of each grandchild. In general, Ken loved talking to children, particularly his grandchildren and the kids growing up in the neighborhood.
Ken had a rich sense of humor and made friends easily. He served on the board of the First American Bank, and, with Mae, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Eissey Theatre. For many years, Ken and Mae were avid tennis players, and they also enjoyed international travel, generating many wonderful memories.
A memorial service will be held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 3395 Burns Road, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at 11:00 am on December 1, 2012. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory to the American Cancer Society or Hospice of Palm Beach County.