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John Henry May, 99, of Carysbrook, Virginia entered eternal life March 16, 2021. He survived his wife of 68 years Mary Elizabeth MeltonMay by less than three months. The son of James Franklin May, Sr. and Sarah Jennie Garner May, he also survived five brothers and sisters: Mary Frances Blodgett, Sarah Josephine Marshall, James Franklin May, Jr., Minnie Lee McGehee and Samuel Stanley May. He was loved and respected by four generations of nieces and nephews, both by blood and by marriage. He lived most of his life on the farm on which he was born and was a life-long member of Bethel Baptist Church, where he was Sunday school teacher and Deacon Emeritus.
John farmed with his father after high school. Later, he worked at the Bremo Power Plant and Fork Union Military Academy. He apprenticed as a plumber in Saint Petersburg, Florida. After returning to Fluvanna County, he worked as a plumber and electrician, first for himself and then for Monroe Johnson.
He represented the Fork Union District on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors from 1975 to 1979.
John collected horse-drawn farm equipment and other antique farm and blacksmith tools for many decades. A natural teacher, he wanted to demonstrate the history of the agriculture that had shaped his rural community and the nation. He wanted people to see how hard farmers had worked, but also to see the constant innovation that went into advancements in farm equipment, particularly in the past 200 years.
In 1995 John and others started Fluvanna Old Farm Day, a celebration of rural life and history, that became a popular annual event at Pleasant Grove Park. He enjoyed working with the other volunteers and founders of the event, including Ellen Miyagawa, Frank, Ruby and Glenn Schumaker, Monroe Johnson, Bob Lanford and H. T. Morris. Some of the highlights of Old Farm Day were demonstrations of horse-drawn plowing and horse-powered treadmills and sorghum mills, and tractor powered milling as well as cider making, blacksmithing, spinning, etc.
John donated select pieces from his collection of antique farm equipment to the Fluvanna Farm Heritage Museum, a permanent exhibit of equipment donated by Fluvanna farmers. David Frazier led a team to restore the equipment. The museum building at Pleasant Grove, was funded by the Fluvanna County Historical Society, Old Farm Day, and many donors.
John and Mary Beth enjoyed traveling to sightsee or to visit with relatives. John loved to tell stories, enjoyed helping friends and relatives with building projects, and was never happier than when he was making molasses or attending auctions and farm shows with his friends.
The family is especially grateful to Dr. Randolph Lanford, Sheila Melton and Nancy Knight.
A graveside service will be held at Bethel Baptist Church Cemetery, at 2:00 on Sunday, March 21. Please plan to wear a mask.
If you wish to make a donation in his memory,consider Bethel Baptist Church, 227 Bethel Church Rd.Palmyra, VA or The Fluvanna Farm Heritage Museum c/o The Fluvanna Historical Society, Box 8, Palmyra, VA 22963.