Joseph Eugene May (1950-2023)
Joe will always be remembered for his easy smile, big laugh, his great stories and how he was notorious for disliking goodbyes, dragging them out, following you to your car, and never wanting to end the conversation. In the end, his goodbye was very brief, thus ending his 73-year legacy of the “Long May Goodbye.”
Joseph Eugene May, 73, of Victor, NY, passed away surrounded by family on August 23, 2023.
He was born in Irondequoit, NY, in 1950 to John and Margaret (Wambach) May, who raised him to have a strong work ethic and soft heart. His father, Jack, was very handy and shared his knowledge and skills with Joe, who could build or fix anything. His mother, Margaret, supported Joe in all his dreams and adventures, and enjoyed joining in on many of them herself. Joe was a devoted son. As a small child, he left a basket of pansies at his mother’s doorstep on Mother’s Day, claiming the “Pansy Fairy” had left them. Through the years, no matter the distance, weather, or health, he made sure that the “Pansy Fairy” visited his mother every Mother’s Day. Joe attended St. Cecelia’s School and Eastridge High School.
Joe met the love of his life, Rosemary (LaFond) May in 1999 at a family cottage on the Fourth of July. They had an immediate bond. Rosemary never met anyone that she felt so comfortable talking to. Excited to start their new lives together, they announced their engagement on New Year’s Eve and the two were married on June 16, 2000, in Clifton Park, NY. They shared many years together and had many adventures. They loved most being with their family at their cottages on Chamount Bay, NY, the Thousand Islands, and in Chestertown, NY, in the Adirondacks. They loved to take rides together, Joe’s hand wrapped in Rosemary’s as they saw the sights of the world around them.
Joe was a proud father and his children meant the world to him. They worked together, went on amazing adventures and family vacations all over the country, and listened to his great stories – often several times, but they never got old. He was a constant presence for his children and was always there for them, whether to provide counsel during hard times, advice on building projects or renovations at their homes, an ear to bend when they needed to talk, or a trip for an ice cream cone on a sunny day. Joseph and Wendy, Charles and Elizabeth, Katherine and Michael, and Jacob will miss him … but he lives on in them as they run businesses he started, visit farm markets, tend gardens, tell his funny stories and jokes, smile easily and laugh loudly.
Joe loved becoming a grandparent and had special relationships with his grandchildren. Joe treasured his time with his grandkids, chatting about boats, plants, travel and places he thought they should see. He wanted them to see and do it all. He was so proud of who they are and what they will become. His adoration was deep, and he would often tear up when he talked about his grandkids. His favorite time with his grandchildren was in the Thousand Islands going for a boat ride or fishing. Amelia, Mandy, Courtland, Matthew, Brooklyn, Henry, Peter, and Margaret were loved deeply by their Grandpa and his love will be forever in their hearts.
Joe was an incredibly hard-working man, and work defined who he was. Surrounded by a large, hard-working family, his work at Wambach Farms, a family-run farm market, brought him into the business and molded who he became. Wambach’s, started by his grandfather, continued as a family business, run by his Uncle Pete Wambach. Joe, his brothers, and many cousins worked at Wambach’s together through the years. His love of the produce business grew and he became a manager at Wambach’s in Irondequoit, NY, serving his community with hard work and dedication for several more years.
But, knowing trees need space to grow, Joe moved his young family to Victor, NY, in 1979. With the strength of oak and ox, Joe forged a business rooted in family and community May’s Farm and Garden. He put his heart and soul into every endeavor, and it was no surprise that May’s became a popular destination in Victor, serving the community for nearly 20 years. He ran the business with his first wife, Linda (Datthyn) May and their three children. Joe was always there, with a ready smile, a story, a hand to the car, advice on plants … or life. During these years, he was a mentor to many who worked for him. He formed lasting friendships with farmers, vendors, salespeople, and many of the customers that shopped at May’s. He bloomed in Victor, inspiring beauty in the community with displays of pansies, pumpkins and Christmas trees in the front lawn at the “Big Yellow House.” Joe started Farm and Garden stores in Canandaigua, Phelps, and Penfield over the years, but he was always the most proud of his store in Victor and the work he did to restore the Victorian mansion and carriage house that housed the business and his family. He restored several houses in the Village of Victor and won awards for Historic Preservation. He cared deeply for his community. Joe served as the Mayor of the Village of Victor from 1984-1993 and was proud of his efforts to beautify the village with many projects. His sons, Joe and Charlie, continued his Farm and Garden legacy, taking over his Canandaigua and Phelps stores, growing the seeds he planted for what would become Mayflower’s Nursery and Garden Center and Windy Hill Farm Inc.
Joe loved his business and he loved funny business, too. He worked hard and he played hard. He was a big character and a wiseass, wanting nothing more than to make you laugh. He appreciated a good joke and fun-loving shenanigans, playing pranks and telling jokes and colorful stories. He and his brothers Jack, Michael, Mark, and Thomas, along with his many cousins and friends, had several hijinks through the years: painting rock bass as a kid with his cousin, Carol, then leaving one in the paint pail to be later discovered by their fathers; stranding one another on Tom Thumb Island and driving the boat away; a late night drop-off of a outhouse on the front lawn of his cousin Peter’s Pittsford home; or being dropped and left at “Joe’s Buoy” in the American Channel of the St. Lawrence River by his brother, Mike, for an hour during a 25 mile water skiing trip around Wellesley Island. It goes without saying that Joe loved to have fun with the people he cared most about.
He also offered his time and ear for anything they needed. In marrying Rosemary, Joe gained a whole new branch of family and loved his time with his brothers and sisters-in-law and their children. The LaFond family – Dave, Ann, Mike, Paul & Stephanie, and their children Alexandra, Paul, and Ben – were very dear to him and he will always be in their hearts.
Joe was a traveler and an adventurer. He enjoyed the simple pleasure of going for a ride and looking out the window of his car at the scenery around the Finger Lakes. He traveled around the country on many family trips, but a few were particularly memorable for him: exploring California with his family; a road trip around the country with his sons, Joe and Charlie; Touring historic homes in Williamsburg, VA, with Rosemary, Jacob, and his mother, Margaret; and visiting family in Rhode Island. He had a special connection with the Adirondacks and Vermont, and no matter how much time he spent there, he always wanted more.
But, his first love and favorite place in the world was at his family cottage on Surveyor Island in the Thousand Islands, Canada. Just like Wambach Farms solidified his model for running a family business, Surveyor Island was likewise a model for how to enjoy leisure time with family. At the Islands, he took long boat rides, fished, water skied, and enjoyed the company of his mother, father, brothers and their families playing a game or sitting by a campfire. One notorious night, while his huge family played a raucous game of spoons around the original island table, he had an epic battle with his niece, Niki over the last spoon, her 20-something self laid across the table holding on for dear life as her giant 6’ 4” uncle battled it out until she bit his hand and he relented. The table broke and needed to be repaired the next day by the uncles. His mother, Margaret, declared, “I don’t think we will be playing spoons at the island anymore.” He spearheaded many island projects he was proud of, and enjoyed exploring the St. Lawrence River towns and cities. One of his favorite things at the islands was a sunrise boat ride to Brockville to get a piece of pie for breakfast from a local cafe with his brothers. Like he sprouted from Wambach’s into business, Joe set course down river from his family island and onto his own – Watch Island. With Rosemary and his sons, they continued the traditions set forth on the main island, which Charlie now carries on with his family.
Joe had a soft heart and in his later years, wore his heart on his sleeve. He teared up often, when talking about his family – his children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews especially. Rosemary helped Joe harness this boundless love by encouraging him to work in Medical Transport, which allowed him to use his empathy for others in a service to his community. He made connections through this work with clients and colleagues alike, forming lasting friendships. Additionally, Joe and Rosemary fostered dozens of dogs and puppies with the New2U Rescue and adopted several dogs.
His family will carry on the legacy of his long goodbye, and his fondness for love and laughter. We’ll always imagine hearing him say one of his colorful Joe-isms, “No Deals, bear cub” as he walked out the door. We couldn’t have asked for a better father and husband, and will miss Joe every day. His memory will live on in the hearts of all those who loved him. He left so much to be proud of here on Earth and we know he will be watching down on us from Heaven.
Joe is joined in heaven by his parents, John and Margaret May and his granddaughter, Molly May, his nephew, Brandon Whilden, and his beloved dogs, especially Adolph, Izabelle, and Bud. He is survived by his loving wife, Rosemary May; his children, Joseph Jr. and Wendy May, Charles and Elizabeth May, Katherine and Michael Wells, and Jacob May and a few “adopted” children; his grandchildren, Amelia, Mandy, Courtland, Matthew, Brooklyn, Henry, Peter, and Margaret; his brothers and his brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Jack and Carol May, Michael and Renee May, Mark and Debi May, Thomas and Mary Alice May, Dave LaFond, Ann LaFond, Mike LaFond, and Paul and Stephanie LaFond. He had a special bond with his many nieces and nephews, John, Suzanne, Andy, Timmy, Michael, Niki, Kristen, Justin, Thomas, Alexandra, Paul, and Ben. He was very close with his many cousins and will be missed by all.
Calling Hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday August 31st at Jarmusz Cotton Funeral Home 26 Maple Ave. Victor, NY, 14564.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to offset medical expenses incurred during his illness. Checks payable to Rosemary May sent ℅ Charlie May 2505 Rochester Rd. Canandaigua, NY 14424 or through Venmo to @posieflowers.