Donald A. May, 74, died March 23, 2013, in Baton Rouge. A private graveside service was held Monday at Roselawn Memorial Park. He was born February 15, 1939, in Natalbany, Louisiana, to Claude W. and Bertie M. May. He was retired from Dictaphone Corporation. Donald was self-taught in the field of pipe organ repairing. He graduated from the Baton Rouge Vocational-Technical school in Electronics, and read extensively about pipe organs. His experience with pipe organs spanned 50 years and he often traveled throughout the south to examine and learn about these instruments. It must be said that the years of study and work with many instruments made him a true craftsman of superior ability. One of Donald's major accomplishments was to restore and rebuild the Robert Morton Theatre Organ at the Paramount Theatre on Third Street. For 34 years it lay in ruin; instrumentation covered with the dust of time, leather dried and cracked from years of non-use, while the console had its electrical line cut years before and was thrown out in a theatre alley to crumble. In 1960, Donald took up the challenge and began a five-year (nearly 3,000 hours) task to rebuild the star of yesteryear. Working as early as 4 or 5 in the morning until his regular job duties required that he leave, returning at night and on weekends, he systematically overcame the monumental obstacles of technical complications with a devoted labor of love. The rebuilt organ played for the first time after more than 30 years for the opening of "The Sound of Music" at the Paramount Theatre in April 1966, and was played until 1978. In 1979 the theatre was demolished, but not before the organ was removed and installed in a private residence in Jackson, Mississippi, with Don's assistance, where it is still played today. Donald was also a gifted story-teller with an interest in Louisiana cemeteries and was knowledgeable about the people buried there. He often humorously described himself as a "storehouse of worthless information". That was far from the truth, for we found him extremely interesting and will certainly miss hearing his stories. Donald is survived by close cousins, Perrin, Ann, Wallis, and Desiree Watkins; Bobbye Cloy; Lucius Scott; and adoring caregiver and friend, Shelly Reid. He was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Dorothy May Lee; and niece, Judith Anne Lee. Condolences and memories may be sent to P.O. Box 64663, Baton Rouge, LA 70896.
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Published in TheAdvocate.com from Mar. 29 to Mar. 31, 2013