In pursuing the genealogy of my grandfather, Peter Paul May, I have hit a dead end. There seem to be very few records of his life and I think this needs to be rectified. Because my “Papa Pete,” as I knew him, was a vibrant, dynamic individual in his day. And I loved him with all my heart.
Papa was born in Zurich, Switzerland on October 25, 1921. He died in Browning, Montana on October 17, 2007, just shy of his 86th birthday.
I know he was married for a time in Switzerland but I know very little about that part of his life. I do have some photos of him and his mother, with whom he used the endearment “Mutterli” (pronounced MEW-ter-lee), meaning little mother. He was an only child.
Papa’s mother was named Helene (Otto) Hurt-May. Her family was fairly well off and I don’t think they ever lacked for anything. His father, Werner May, died at the age of 40. He was apparently a race car driver but I don’t know if that’s what caused his death. I’ll need to dig for more info on this point.
Helene was known as “Grossmutterli” to my sisters and I. The word means “dear little grandmother” and although we never met her we did love her. Every year at Christmastime she would send us a box of Swiss chocolates – a real indulgence back in those days. We had one piece per night each until they were gone. They were so smooth and sweet and delicious! I still have a tablecloth that was hers.
I know Papa had two daughters, Irene and Joan, from his first marriage and I did get to meet one of them. I always had a feeling they felt a little abandoned by their father, and possibly with good reason. He married my Grandma Milly (nee Mildred Bertha Charlton) in New Jersey and moved to the U.S. to be with her. They didn’t get to see their father too often after that. I have the impression that was painful for them.
Grandma Milly was the love of his life and he was hers. In their younger days they entertained in their home in grand style and travelled to the Yukon every other year or so to get away. I’ll never forget their station wagon with the canoe on top. They’d stop in northern BC, where we lived at the time, and take us camping. Mom would be up with them late into the night, laughing and talking and playing cards. Those were rich, vibrant memories. In fact, almost all my memories of Milly and Papa are rich and vibrant.
So much more to write but I will save some for another post.