Philip Stockton May, Jr. & Gloria May

Philip Stockton May, Jr. & Gloria May

Phil May, who celebrated his 90th birthday in June, was born in 1925 at the old St. Vincent’s Hospital. He and his wife of 50 years, Gloria (Binzel) Sullivan May still reside in the Avondale-Riverside area where they first met.

May_07“We met in 1964 on a blind date to a Riverside Garden Club Christmas party. The Avondale friends I was supposed to go with, Helen Dunlap and her husband Dave, had to cancel. Helen said she knew a wonderful fellow who’d be delighted to escort me and that’s how we met,” Gloria said. “Phil was 39, a confirmed bachelor. He still tells me he ‘needed a lot of training.’ I was a Navy widow with three children ages two, four and six.”

Phil fell in love with Gloria and her children, daughter Gloria, 6, John, 4, and Susan, 2 at the time. They married in 1965 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Park Street. Later they welcomed a son, Philip Stockton May III, nicknamed Tiger.

The May family first lived on Rapallo Road in Venetia Manor and then bought a riverfront home, 4324 McGirts Boulevard. They renovated, adding a downstairs master bedroom and large family room/kitchen. They repaired the dock and enjoyed crabbing, fishing, boating and water-skiing during the 32 years they lived there. Their garage apartment was rented to a succession of local singles who never stayed single for long.

May_02“Over the years several bachelors rented that apartment and one by one they’d get engaged and marry. We attended so many weddings. Some were our children’s friends, like Mayor Peyton who was Tiger’s friend…it became sort of a joke that you wouldn’t stay single long if you moved into our apartment,” the Mays said, laughing.

McGirts families held many neighborhood get-togethers. The Mays recall countless numbers of teens at their home, including an all-time record of 60 girls their daughter Susan invited for a sorority rush party/sleepover when she was a Lee High School senior.

“They were sleeping everywhere inside and out, the backyard, the dock, on the boat…and of course with that many young ladies at the house, our phone rang off the hook with calls from young men who just had to speak to one of them,” they recalled. “We’d rather see a hurricane coming than try that again!”

Phil grew up in a 1912 Avondale-Arden home at 3914 St. Johns Avenue, which still stands. His only sibling, Anne Hill May, is deceased. His father was Philip Stockton May, Sr., a descendent of the Stockton family who came to Jacksonville in the 1890s, and his mother was Anne Thompson Hill of West Virginia. His paternal grandparents were Anna Mary Stockton and Franklin Pierce May.

May_01His father, U. S. Army Veteran Philip Stockton May, Sr., was discharged from the military in 1918, returned to Jacksonville and met Anne Thompson Hill. She was an instructor at the downtown YMCA, then located at the corner of Laura and Duval Streets, where she taught ladies physical fitness and sports. The couple married later that year.

May’s father graduated from the University of Florida and law school. After his military service he returned to Jacksonville to accept a job with attorney John T. G. Crawford. Crawford lived in the Avondale riverfront home 1844 Cherry Street, known as the House on Cherry Street Bed & Breakfast [most recently the home of longtime Resident writer Victoria Register-Freeman]. Their law practice eventually became Crawford & May Attorneys.

“I could walk from our home on St. Johns Avenue to Fishweir Elementary. I have great memories of Fishweir. We put on a class play about the founding of the U.S. and I was chosen to play George Washington. The prettiest girl in the whole class was Dorothy Ann Skinner and she played Martha Washington…we had a lot of fun,” Phil said. He attended John Gorrie Junior High and graduated from Robert E. Lee Senior High School in 1943.

May_03After high school graduation Phil entered the U.S. Army, sailing to England with the 87th Infantry Division aboard the British steamship Mauritania II. May recalls feeling thankful they only saw endless schools of flying fish instead of enemy submarines during the five-day Atlantic crossing. Later at Omaha Beach, May was surprised to see debris still littering the shore as his division marched through carrying 100-pound backpacks. They couldn’t imagine any survivors of that deadly battle. He cried and all around him soldiers were crying too.

In late 1944 May sustained a serious thigh wound from a shell fragment. He was eventually evacuated home on the RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner. His landing in New York on April 12, 1945, brought no celebration. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died.

May_06“Another memory I’ll never forget happened at a Georgia hospital where I went to recuperate from osteomyelitis infection in my leg. Helen Keller visited, came to my bedside and sat with me. I don’t remember exactly what was said…a lady interpreter was with her (probably Polly Thompson, Keller’s second interpreter/companion after her famous teacher Anne Sullivan’s death in 1936). I felt her deep empathy,” he said.

In 1946 May returned to Jacksonville to celebrate Christmas. Healed enough to drive, he bought a green 1939 LaSalle four-door sedan, so large he called it The Green Monster. Before his discharge in 1948 May endured 35 leg surgeries. He still keeps in touch with one of his nurses and two fellow wounded soldiers.

He graduated from Princeton in 1952 with a history degree and became a traveling bookseller for Macmillan Publishers. Macmillan had famously published Gone With the Wind (1936).

In 1955, weary of constant travel, May interviewed with Johnson Lane Space & Co., a Savannah investment firm. May became a successful stockbroker who opened their Jacksonville branch.

“I spent the next 25 years in the investment business. The first Jacksonville office of Johnson Lane Space & Co. was on the eighth floor of the downtown Graham Building, then in a street level office between Bay and Forsyth. In 1960 when the market sank, the newest affiliates, including Jacksonville closed,” he said. “I became an independent broker, sharing an office with broker Victor Hughes in the Riverside James Winston Building and later, in the Independent Life Building.”

May_05In the late 1970s May, a self-proclaimed ‘book nut,’ began his ideal retirement job. He went to work for Mumford Library Books in Jacksonville, where he stayed until 2012.

Gloria is a graduate of George Washington University with an economics degree and language minors in French, Spanish and Portuguese. Her Uncle Louis Miller from Missouri was serving in Congress while she was there. She dreamed of a career as a United Nations interpreter but accepted a position briefly working with an import/exporter’s international clients. In 1950 she married Navy Pilot Jack Sullivan who was lost off the USS Forrestal in 1959.

May_08Gloria was a volunteer for many organizations including Gray Lady for NAS Hospital, Salvation Army and Scout troops. She loves to knit for her family, including eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They are close to their immediate family, including Phil’s nephew and nieces who live in the Northeast. Their daughter Gloria (Reid) Phillips and her family live in North Carolina. Son John resides in Old Ortega, Susan (John) Scott’s family and Philip May III (Stacy) also live in Jacksonville.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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