At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
St. Mary's Catholic Church
423 First Street NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Life Story / Obituary
Warm, generous, and kind, Ken May lived a life rich in faith, family, and friends. Ken was an unwavering servant who listened with empathy and compassion and freely gave his resources to help others. Whether offering a ride, helping with a particular task, or being a prayer warrior, Ken led with his heart. Never one to demand the limelight or require thanks, Ken was happiest when he supported those he loved. A powerful role model for living a life of service, Ken was cherished by all who were blessed to know him.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1934 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. Flash Gordon made his debut while Fuji Photo Film first captured memories. The Three Stooges took center stage in their first short while the nation also met Donald Duck. The rays of Hope peeked through the clouds of despair in America when unemployment decreased to 22%, marking the turning point in the Great Depression. This sense of hope only increased in the home of Walter and Wilhemina (Hehl) May as they welcomed their son Ken to their family on December 23 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ken grew up in an active and loving home at 338 Marion NW. His father worked at American Seating, and his mother, "Billie," was a homemaker. The family attended St. Mary's Catholic Church, and Ken particularly enjoyed Sunday drives out to Coopersville to visit his country cousins. Ken had six siblings: Rose Mary, who died in infancy, Jerry, Tom, Joan, Marty, and Marge. He spent many days at Lincoln Park playing baseball and swimming with all the neighborhood friends. By nature, Ken had a servant's heart and never hesitated to lend a hand where needed. In winter, he and Jerry would snow shovel the driveways of all the widows in the neighborhood, and Ken became his mom's "go-to" guy for helping out with things.
Ken attended St. Mary's and Catholic Central High School, graduating with the class of 1952. After working several odd jobs, Ken enlisted in the U.S. Army in April of 1954. Following eight weeks of training in Virginia and finishing as a Quarter Master, Ken served twenty-two months in France and nine months in England during peacetime. He loved the camaraderie of the military and made many dear friends.
After being discharged from the service, Ken returned home to West Michigan and enrolled at Davenport College for two years on the GI Bill. Beginning in 1963, Ken worked for Apex Rack. In 1974, he left Apex Rack and began working for Reynolds Metals Company as a Machine operator. It was during these working years that Ken made a habit of buying a new car every two years or so, selling his previous car at a generous discount, to a family member in need. When Reynolds Metals Company closed its doors in 1988, Ken was only 55. In the following years, he worked several jobs. One he often talked about was working as a night security guard at Mary Free Bed Hospital. Ken enjoyed different aspects from each of his jobs throughout the years, but what he enjoyed most were the friendships created during those times.
In 1985, when his father passed away, and his mother's health began to fail, Ken moved back home to support her. With great care and sensitivity, he arranged his work during these years to accommodate Billie's needs, allowing her to live in her home until she died in 1994.
Later that same year, Ken moved into an apartment at Mt. Mercy, where he lived for 25 years. During these years, he found his ministry in serving his fellow residents. He helped them move and drove them to appointments and on other errands, never asking for or expecting anything in return. Besides volunteering his time and driving services, Ken was also quick to help anyone financially or materially.
Over the years, Ken enjoyed golfing at Lincoln Country Club and Alpine Golf Club and bowling in several leagues. He was a good cook and considered himself a meat and potato meal kind of guy. He enjoyed many meals at Red Lion and Mr. Burger restaurants. Once a month for breakfast, he gathered with his buddies of 50 years at Mr. Burger. Until the last two years, when walking became difficult, Ken was a devoted lifetime member of St. Mary's Parish who always attended the 5 PM Saturday Mass.
After his health deteriorated to the point of needing more support, Ken moved to assisted care at Samaritas Senior Living of Grand Rapids. Most frustrating to him was his inability to continue to serve others as he had in the past. But he soon realized that his kind words and disposition were his next ministry. He became a great encourager, listener and conversationalist to all the staff, keeping an updated prayer list and following up with them to learn how things were progressing.
In living a faith-filled life of service, Ken was an inspiration to many. Ken embodied the principles of his faith, embracing each day as a gift and every person as a friend. As we celebrate his life, may we find comfort in our many treasured memories and the honor of carrying his legacy forward. Whenever we give of our time and talents in service of others, we keep Ken's beautiful spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired us.
Kenneth Richard May, age 88, passed away August 15, 2023. Ken was born December 23, 1934 in Grand Rapids to the late Walter and Wilhemina (Hehl) May. He was also preceded in death by his siblings, Rose Mary May, Jerry May, Tom May, Joan Harig, and Marty May. Ken will be dearly missed by his sister, Marge Spencer; and many nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held Saturday, August 19, 2023, at 2 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. Friends may visit with family beginning at 1 PM as well as after the service. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to Hospice of Michigan or St. Mary's Catholic Church. To read more of Ken's Life Story and leave a memory or condolence, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.