I wrote this statement to be delivered to Keith May’s family at the San José Peace and Justice Center on August 3, 2022. For Keith’s obituary and information about his life, see the Spangler Mortuary website.
I am not sure when I first met Keith at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center but I think it was at one of our annual International Day of Peace events. He stayed later to help clean up. Keith was somewhat socially awkward but always friendly and wanting to connect with others. He was educated and informed around issues of social justice and always had a bright genuine smile on his face and an eager heart to just connect with others.
As time went on, Keith became a good friend and a solid support for my roles at the Center. I relied on his presence and he was often one of the first people I would call when there was a physical issue to deal with. There were many times when he would help me with the wheelchair lift or unlocking doors or carrying stuff into the space. He also would fix things up and stay attentive to any issues that may be going on. His practical insights were helpful in solving the problems that arose.
Keith loved the Center and the welcome feel he received. He helped a lot when we were doing regular meals on Fridays for anyone who might be hungry. He would always bring a dish to share and help with setting up and putting things away. Keith was an important part of the Center and his willingness to give of his time and energy was one of the best donations I received while employed here.
One time, early in the morning, I received a string of text messages from Keith with photos of a huge tree branch that fell across our front yard, barely missing the house. His quick actions helped ensure that a well-planned event was still held that evening at the Center. There were other texts about issues like flooding and damage to the Peace Pantry that I also received from Keith and oftentimes before I could get to the Center to address the issues, Keith would already be fixing it.
The pandemic was hard on everyone but I really think it was really hard on Keith. When connection and acceptance is difficult for people, the loss of that contact is really felt. The pandemic was an area that Keith and I disagreed with but for good reasons. Keith wanted to just live his life even though there were many societal changes that he knew were needed. Our disagreement was more like discourse and dialogue where we shared our understanding of things. The ability to agree to disagree and still be in community is so transformative and I have high respect for Keith’s ability to engage and navigate spaces with intention while still understanding that we may all be different.
I will continue to carry Keith in my heart as a reminder of the good in this world and continue to work for the changes that we need. Keith was a gift and his quiet awkward presence will be missed. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this difficult time.