Published: January 2, 2008
Richard “Dick” Dees May, co-owner and manager of May’s Antique Market, died peacefully at his home on December 23. For the past 30 years Dick has been a fixture of Brimfield Week, conducting the highly successful Thursday market three times annually.
Born November 28, 1927, in Worcester, Mass., the son of John Charles May and Virginia Dees “Goldie” May, he grew up in the greater Hartford, Conn., area, attended Bethany College in West Virginia, and later pursued his college degree at the University of Pennsylvania. In the late 1940s, Dick left the Navy Air Corp and married Laura Jane (Pascoe) May, his wife of 56 years.
Dick and Laura made their home in Sturbridge, Mass., where he established his first business, May Hardware, selling construction materials to builders throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. This led to a long career as a quality home builder in the Sturbridge area. He also built and ran the Quality Inn (formerly the Holiday Inn Express) in Sturbridge.
In 1971, May bought the Kerry farm in Brimfield, using the land as an anchor field for the world-known Brimfield Antiques Show. It began as a parking lot for the J&J Promotions market across the street, but very quickly became its own venue.
Established in 1977, May’s Antique Market went on to become one of the most popular events of Brimfield Week, the second largest of all the markets with capacity for more than 600 dealers. Under Dick’s rules, the market opened with the dealers in place but with no tents up and no merchandise displayed until exactly 9 am, when the buying public entered the market.
May’s Antique Market has regularly been featured, not only in these pages but also in numerous national publications and on television. May’s unique style of show opening garnered the business an excellent reputation, and it was featured in The New York Times on Sunday, May 1, 1988.
Dick enjoyed working in the family business with his wife and children as recently as this year.
He was a lifelong member of the Sierra Club and a member of The Nature Conservancy. He was an active Rotarian in Sturbridge until the 1990s, and served as the president from 1979 to 1980 and received the Paul Harris Award. As a fundraiser for the Rotary Scholarship Fund, he and his wife Laura successfully ran the Sturbridge Rotary Antique Show for many years.
His true passion was sailing, where for 35 years he frequented the waters off Stonington, Fishers Island, Block Island, Cutty Hunk, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Maine. In addition, he made two transatlantic crossings from France to the United States.
Dick and his wife enjoyed traveling to South American and Asia, completing two extraordinary trips to the remote areas of the Amazon jungle in Peru.
Richard spent his last ten years as a winter resident of Las Vegas, where he volunteered as a reading assistant to special needs students in the Nevada Schools. He returned to Brimfield each spring where he enjoyed working with his family at each of the markets. Richard was an avid reader, and a loved the daily ritual of reading The New York Times. As a lover of new ideas and adventure, he encouraged all to take risks and to follow their dreams.
Richard was predeceased by a brother, Charles May, and half-sister, Dorothy May. He leaves behind his wife Laura, son Richard T., and daughter-in-law Joyce May of Cranston, R.I., son Charles A. and daughter-in-law Ulrika May of Sweden, daughters Martha May of Northampton, Mass., Ellen May of Wilbraham, Mass., and Susan Madara of Tucson, Ariz. He also leaves 11 grandchildren ranging in age from 13 to 27.
Friends and loved ones celebrated his life on December 30. The family asks that memorial donations be sent to Overlook Visiting Nurse Association, Attn: Donations, PO Box 1000, Charlton MA 01507; 508-792-3760 or Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 1332 North Halsted Street Suite 201, Chicago IL 60622; 312-587-9272.
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