Obituary: May Kelman, 103

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May Kelman

May Rodney Kelman passed away on January 25 at the age of 103. She remained witty, perceptive, incisive and graceful until her final few days, beloved of and by her family and friends. She died peacefully in her home with her family by her side.

Mrs. Kelman was born in 1914 in Brooklyn, NY, the daughter of Samuel and Anna Edith Rodney. When she was nearly 4 years old, her mother was taken away from her during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Mrs. Kelman and her sister Dorothy were raised by a series of relatives in a close-knit community in Brooklyn. She graduated from Girls’ High School and landed a job as an executive’s assistant in the throes of the depression. Soon thereafter, in 1936, she married her childhood friend from the Brooklyn neighborhood, Irving Kelman. Mrs.Kelman continued to work as a secretary as she helped pay her husband’s way through dental school. Irving and May remained married for 58 years before Irving passed away in 1994.

In 1946, May and Irving moved to Sag Harbor, where he had acquired a dental practice. Eventually the Kelmans purchased a home on Main Street in Sag Harbor. There they raised their four children, Michael (Susan), Robert (Maryanne), Edith (Bill) and Peter (Nancy), each of whom graduated from Pierson High School. Mrs. Kelman was an active member of the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star. She and her husband were long-time members of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor. At the time of her death she was the oldest member of the congregation.

Mrs. Kelman had a reputation as an excellent knitter, seamstress and cook; she contributed recipes to many local cookbooks. She delighted in cooking dishes that featured local ingredients such as beach plum jelly, duck a l’orange and clam chowder. At the age of 75, she began to quilt and pursued this avocation with passion. She was a member of the Eastern Long Island Quilters Guild. Her quilts won many awards in local exhibitions. In 2017, Temple Adas Israel celebrated her quilts with a solo exhibition of her work. In addition to her quilting, Mrs. Kelman was an avid reader and, until her final days, solved the New York Times crossword daily in pen. At the age of 99 she acquired an i-pad and learned to use a gmail account to communicate with her children and grandchildren who had moved away from Sag Harbor.

Mrs. Kelman was predeceased by her oldest son Michael. She is survived by her three children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held at Yardley and Pino funeral home and Mrs. Kelman was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Sag Harbor, alongside Irving and Michael Kelman.

The family asks that memorial donations be made to East End Hospice or ARF.

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Gavin Menu is the sports editor, advertising director and co-publisher of The Sag Harbor Express and Express Magazine. Reach him at gmenu@sagharborexpress.com.