Ken May lived life of volunteer public service

Ken May is shown in the driver’s seat of a LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad ambulance in this 2016 photo. The longtime volunteer died Monday at 91.

CUMBERLAND — Kenneth “Pete” May, a lifelong leader in volunteer service who served as the president of the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad for nearly 40 years, died Monday. He was 91.

“We lost an extraordinary man today,” James Pyles, director of the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services, said. “Ken May’s commitment to the emergency services community is unmatched.”

Diane Shoemaker, who succeeded May as president of the LaVale Rescue Squad several years ago, said May was “like a father to me.”

Shoemaker said she was present when May joined LaVale Rescue in 1978.

“Ken did so many things. It’s hard to narrow them down to just a few,” Shoemaker, a retired nurse and former paramedic who began her volunteer service more than 40 years ago with the American Red Cross, said. “He served his country in more ways than one. He always offered a helping hand no matter what the need was.” 

May was the first of three generations of his family to serve with the LaVale Rescue Squad, which observed its 50th anniversary in 2018. He was a member of the LaVale Volunteer Fire Department before he began volunteering at the rescue squad.

“Betty was a volunteer before me and one day she said they had a heart attack victim to get to but they had no driver. I told her I could drive and I’ve been here ever since,” May said in an April 2016 interview with the Times-News. Ken and Betty May were together 61 years until her death on Jan. 30, 2016.

That year, May became only the third person to be inducted in the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems Region Hall of Fame.

“Ken has mentored countless other volunteers over the years in his work in the emergency services,” Dwayne Kitis, Region 1 MIEMSS administrator, said at the time May was presented the award.

Tim Thomas was one of May’s close friends — a friendship that began at the rescue squad that Thomas joined 47 years ago.

“Ken was a legend,” Thomas, a retired Allegany County 911 dispatcher, said. “There will never be another one like him.”

Thomas said May was given the nickname “legend” several years ago and “we never let it go.”

“Ken didn’t want the spotlight,” Thomas said. “He was a very amazing person. He told me just the other day he’d like to get on the truck and run just one more call.”

Thomas said May was also instrumental in bringing the 911 system to Allegany County.

“He and Dr. Fred Miltenberger and Maryland State Police Captain Bill Turnbull went to meeting after meeting about bringing 911 to the county. They never gave up on the idea,” Thomas said.

Cumberland Fire Department Chief Donnie Dunn served with May on the Emergency Services Board and the EMS Advisory Council.

“I found Ken to be an honest, hard-working, dedicated public servant,” Dunn said. “How he had the energy to do all the things he was involved in, just amazed me. He will be missed by all in emergency services.”

“We’ve lost two great pillars of our community this year — John Burkey and Ken May,” Thomas said.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Boal Funeral Home at Westernport.

The May family asks that any memorial contributions take the form of donations to the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad, 977 National Highway, LaVale, MD 21502; the LaVale Lions Club, P.O. Box 3235, or the LaVale Volunteer Fire Department, 421 National Highway.

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