Mr. Philip Walter May


Mr. Philip Walter May, 79, died peacefully on July 22, 2018, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Mr. May was born on Oct. 1, 1938, in Hackensack, N.J., but spent his formative years in Park Ridge, N.J. He graduated from San Jose State with a degree in advertising and began his career as a junior copywriter at J. Walter Thompson in Los Angeles. During this time, Mr. May reveled in the music of California’s 1960s folk revival and carried a passion for that music all his life.

After marrying in 1962 and starting a family, he and his late wife, Betsy Paterson May, moved back east when Mr. May transferred to J. Walter Thompson in New York. They ultimately settled in Pearl River, N.Y.

Mr. May worked for several of the top advertising agencies in New York, including J. Walter Thompson and Dancer Fitzgerald Sample.

A gifted wordsmith and storyteller, Mr. May quickly ascended the ranks of the agency world. It is believed that he was the youngest person ever made a vice president at JWT at the time. When he retired, after more than 20 years in the business, he was a senior vice president and creative director at DFS with a commanding view from his office in the Chrysler Building. Mr. May won numerous advertising awards, including a Bronze Lion at the Venice Film Festival for a Kodak commercial that first aired during the Academy Awards.

After retiring in 1986 to pursue his dream of becoming a fiction writer, Mr. May moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he completed several novels. Among his published works are “Twenty Silver Ghosts,” an exquisitely illustrated volume that chronicles the history of Rolls Royce cars, and “The Rifle Musket,” a young adult fiction book set in the Civil War era.

Mr. May owned or restored 68 cars and three motorcycles. He had a passion for British sports cars, particularly the MG TC, of which he owned five. Other favorites included five wooden station wagons, seven Model A Fords, a 1913 Model T Ford, two Morgans, an AC Ace, and an Austin Healey 100-4.

He was a history buff and collector. At age 10, he began collecting Civil War weapons. A 1964 issue of Gun Report featured his cover story about the weapons and diary accounts of his great-grandfather, a Union Army cavalry officer during the Civil War.

Following the untimely death of his wife, Betsy, in 1990, Mr. May was blessed to earn the love of Lucinda “Cindy” Wharton Kellam, and they married in 1996. With each passing year the couple’s blended family of seven children grew, ultimately producing 16 grandchildren. To Mr. May’s three daughters, Cindy seemed an absolute miracle – restoring joy to his life and becoming a muchneeded and adored grandmother to their six kids, Betsy and Virginia Edinger, Stuart, Josie and Garnett Martin, and Eliza Moore.

Mr. and Mrs. May spent many years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where they took pleasure in the company of good friends, including their book club. Together they enjoyed international travel as well as regular trips to family and friends.

In 2001, they moved to Williamsburg, Va. They found meaningful volunteer work, and Mr. May served as a tour guide at Endview Plantation. The couple also joined the Williamsburg MG Club and had great fun on group tours of Virginia’s scenic byways in their MG TC, the wind blowing through their white locks.

Mr. May is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 22 years, Cindy May; brother, John Timothy “Tim” May (Deborah MayBuffum), of Petaluma, Calif.; three daughters, Darcy Paterson May (Greg Edinger), of Greenwich, N.Y., Jamie Eliza May (Will Moore), of Williamsburg, Va., and Wendy Westerfield Martin (Todd), of Richmond, Va.; four much-loved stepchildren, Lucinda Kellam Jones (Chris), of Winston-Salem, N.C., Luke Kellam (Patty), of Franktown, Va., Whit Kellam (Susu), of Baton Rouge, La., and Anna Kellam Murray (Mike), of White Bear Lake, Minn.; and 16 adored grandchildren, who reveled in love and holidays at his home. He also is survived by many cherished family members, nieces and nephews, in-laws, friends, and, of course, Grady, his loyal Parson Russell Terrier, who was the last of many beloved canine companions.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Philip Westerfield May and Virginia Webb May, and his beloved wife of 28 years, Betsy Paterson May.

A celebration of Mr. May’s life will be held on Monday, July 30, 2018, at 1 p.m. at Hungars Episcopal Church in Bridgetown, Va. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Heritage Humane Society, 430 Walter Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185 or Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, 1368 Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, VA 23081.

Memory tributes may be shared with the family at

Arrangements were made by the Williams Funeral Homes

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