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Provincial Marine, historical re-enactors celebrate life of long-time member

Historical re-enactors paying tribute at King's Navy Yard Park.

David May may have passed away but he is in no way forgotten.

May was a former  captain of the 1812 Naval Establishment, a past president of the Provincial Marine re-enactment unit, executive director of the Friends of Fort Malden and a 20-year volunteer at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada. He passed away Nov. 11, 2023 at the age of 77 and the Provincial Marine co-ordinated a special memorial service Sunday morning in King's Navy Yard Park to pay tribute to him.

The service resembled a traditional 19th century funeral at sea with the Provincial Marine inviting representatives of HMCS Hunter, the Friends of Fort Malden, Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada and others. Family members joined the service to pay tribute to May.

Cannons firing in tribute at King's Navy Yard Park

Dale Kidd, current president of the Provincial Marine, honoured May and noted he was “a hard worker, excellent sailor and good shipmate.” His wit and dry sense of humour were pointed out at several points during the service, which was capped off by cannon firings.

Kidd recalled being recruited to the Provincial Marine when he lived in London 22 years ago. About 18 months after joining, he first came to the area for an event.

“One of the first people I met when I got here was David May,” said Kidd. “If I had a question, David was the guy to talk to.”

Kidd eventually moved to this area and his friendship with May grew over time. May's teaching ability was cited and Kidd stated May's lessons were always remembered.

“You didn't forget what Dave taught you,” said Kidd. “It stuck in your head. Dave was an excellent teacher.”

May became a close friend, Kidd added, and they shared many conversations and a few beers along the way. They enjoyed evenings at Lord Amherst Public House with their Provincial Marine colleagues.

“I have a heck of a pair of shoes to fill in Dave's absence,” he said. “I learned a lot and will do my best but I know I will never be able to fill his shoes completely.”

Alex Dale, interpretation officer with Fort Malden National Historic Site, said he joined the staff there and moved to the area in 2007. He said one of the first people he met was May and they were “fast friends ever since.”

Dale recalled May's wit and ability to joke around and said he took him under his wing to meet various people in town. May also attended Fort Malden for events every time he was called, and would also show up when he wasn't.

Tom Hurlbut, commodore of the Naval Establishment, said he really got to know May at a “School of the Sailor” event in Amherstburg in 2007. Stating the memorial was only the fourth time he was visited the area, Hurlbut said every time he got to be with May was a good time.

“Those rare moments when we were together were a treat,” he said.

Hurlbut said living out-of-town and illness prevent him from seeing May further.

“I too feel a sense of loss and an opportunity missed,” said Hurlbut. “I would have liked to have known him better.”

Christine May, David's sister, said her brother was very happy to spend time with the Provincial Marine and his other volunteer re-enactment commitments.

“He would be so honoured for this ceremony,” she said.

David built many friendships through re-enactments and Christine said he would appreciate the kind words in his honour.

“I know it meant a great deal to him,” she said.

Provincial Marine, historical re-enactors celebrate life of long-time member

By Ron Giofu

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