Remembering Tim May
On November 10, 2014, Kalamazoo Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited (KVCTU), the broad community of Battle Creek, Michigan, and Veterans of Southwest Michigan lost an incredible educator, athletic coach, mentor, and friend when Tim May passed away unexpectedly.
A few years ago, Tim’s son, an Annapolis graduate and Marine officer, retired from active duty having served two tours of duty in the Middle East. Thinking of the service that his father, a WWII Veteran, and his son had performed for their country, Tim wanted to honor and support veterans, especially those who were disabled. On that premise and his fondness for fly fishing, Tim came to the Board of KVCTU, in 2012, to request that the Chapter sponsor and support a local program of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. PHWFF is a national program dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled veteran and active military service personnel through fly fishing and associated activities, including education and outings. With the Board’s support, Tim took full charge of the program: coordinating with the VAMC staff for support and facilities, securing KVCTU volunteers and others to teach fly tying and casting, and organizing two float trips per year on the Muskegon River with professional guides and experienced anglers. Each trip accommodated 26 veterans, and included transportation by the VAMC, a three hour float trip with a professional or experienced guide, lunch by Schlotzsky’s, beverages by KVCTU, a PWHFF ball hat, and boat loads of fun and memories. For many veterans, this was their first experience with fishing and boats, let alone fly fishing, although some stayed with spin casting. Many guides expressed gratitude to Tim for his efforts to serve veterans and asked to be included in all upcoming events. The program has been so well received by our Veterans and so well supported by the professional and sports fishing communities that KVCTU is committed to maintaining the program.
For many years, KVCTU has partnered with St. Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers to host a Tie-a-Thon for the benefit of fly fishing clubs, organizations, and programs involved in education, healing, and rehabilitation of youth, cancer patients, and veterans. Over nine years, Tie-a-Thon has donated 65,000 flies to these organizations. Hearing Terry Wittrop talk about the Tie-a-Thon at KVCTU Chapter meetings, Tim organized a group of Project Healing Waters volunteers and veterans to travel to Elkhart, IN, to tie flies for other fly fishing organizations involved in outreach programs. This is typical Tim May, thinking of others and engaging resources in his influence to help others achieve success.
When Tim found out that the Chapter needed a treasurer, he said, “Yes, I can do that.” For those who knew Tim, that does not come as a surprise. Tim was always very supportive of organizations he was involved with, including youth baseball, his church, youth education, and fly fishing. In recognition of Tim’s participation in the operation of KVCTU and commitment to its future, the Chapter awarded Tim the Emerger of the Year Award for 2012, and the Member of the Year Award for 2012-2013.
Jim Coward, a longtime fishing buddy of Tim’s, said, “Dry fly fishing came to Tim, in earnest, a few years ago, while on a successful dry fly fishing trip to the Madison River, near Ennis, MT. Up to this point, Tim had been an avid fisher, but favored steelhead and warm water species and not dry fly fishing.” Tim became hooked on dry fly fishing and eventually took up fly tying. With a new interest, Tim spent occasional weekends on the Au Sable River with Jim, dry fly fishing, making memories, and being the “grill master” for evening meals.
Tim retired from the Battle Creek Public School system after 30 years of teaching and coaching athletics, but felt isolated from “his students.” So, he contracted to tutor fifth and sixth grade students in math. When St. Philip Catholic Central High School was looking for a principal, Tim said, “I can do that.” And, so, he embraced on “the best job he ever had.” Fr. Fleckenstein said, “Mr. May was much more than a high school administrator; he was a man who truly loved being principal, loved his faith, and loved the students he led.” Unfortunately, Tim only held “the best job ever” for a short year and a half.
In the days following Tim’s death, the grieving community consistently praised Tim for his leadership, optimism, thoughtfulness, friendliness, and kindness. Students and athletes expressed their gratitude for his mentoring, coaching, friendship, and respect shown them–all qualities that create a legacy of making everyone he touched better.
The KVCTU Board will forever remember Tim as a real “git-er-dun” type of a guy — always constructive and willing to go the extra mile to get team results. The Chapter will sorely miss his leadership and positive approach to life.