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Fred May

September 14, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Charles "Fred" May, who died Sept. 4 at the age of 69. His obituary was published in The Herald-Mail on Sept. 6.

Listening to her brother Fred on the drums in the Surfaris' hit song, "Wipe Out," Melinda Belle May said she can remember like it was yesterday how much he put into the popular instrumental number.

"Fred played so hard in that one," she said. In the 1970s when Fred was in his 30s, he and his brother, Bob, and two friends formed a band called The Impossibles.

"We practiced in Fred's basement," Bob said. The name of the band came from Fred's belief that they would never get out of that basement with their music.

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While a little past prime for that kind of venture, The Impossibles played VFWs, Moose clubs and some other area establishments for 15 years.

"We packed the local clubs around here," Bob said. "It was standing room only and I was happy about that."

Fred, who passed away Sept. 4, really got into it, Bob said. It all began when Bob got his first guitar and Fred went to town and bought a set of drums.

One of Fred's leading traits throughout his life was how he committed himself wholeheartedly to everything he did - his work at May's Service Center, his family, the band and his church, albeit belatedly.

"My dad was a good Christian man," said Todd May, Fred's youngest son. That conversion came in 1982 when Fred became a member and later trustee of the Sharpsburg Bible Church.

Most of all, Todd said, he will miss talking with his dad. "He was a good listener and very understanding," Todd said.

Evelyn May described her son Fred as a quiet boy ... almost meek. "He wasn't rough or rowdy," she said.

Her oldest son, Dick, died in 1954 in a traffic accident. After Fred came two more sons, Bob and Jim, and then finally Melinda - the daughter Evelyn and her late husband had wanted.

Fred got to know his future wife through his younger brother, Jim. "I was in Jim's homeroom in school and he asked if I would write to his brother Fred who was in the Air Force in Texas," said Linda Holmes May.

When Fred came home on leave, Linda was anxious to meet him despite the six-year difference in their ages. "He wrote such nice letters," she said.

Since she was only 13, Linda and Fred were just friends at first. "I wasn't allowed to go out so we'd play board games at the house," Linda said.

Later Linda and Fred would double date with her sister and her boyfriend. "Fred was a lot of fun," Linda said. "I remember how he could take a bad situation and turn it around."

While Linda said she rarely saw Fred get mad, brother Bob recalled one occasion when he and Fred got into it.

"I painted his fingernails once while he was sleeping," Bob said. Fred got plenty mad that time, he said.

Not long after Fred and Linda married in 1961, Fred and Bob bought the service station on Sharpsburg Pike and turned it into a thriving business.

"I worked there on weekends when I was in high school," said brother Jim. Now Jim works on computers at his business, CBM Systems.

Even Melinda took her turn in the family enterprise before she pursued higher education, earning her doctorate and now teaching English at Hagerstown Community College.

Fred and Bob owned and operated the station for 45 years. Fred retired just last January.

Fred's sons, Kevin and Todd, are carrying on the May family tradition at the station now.

"Dad bought me my first baseball glove," Kevin recalled. And his dad also got him his first car which led to a tradition of car parts for Christmas presents every year.

Son Donald who lives in Fredericksburg, Va., said he remembers how well his dad took care of his customers, taking the time to talk and laugh with them while solving their vehicle problems.

As the family grew, each was welcomed in the circle of love and caring. Fred's daughters-in-law and grandchildren concurred that he was warm and caring and always there for them too.

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