Fred Oakley May

Former Mercer Island City Councilman and four-term 41st District state representative, Fred Oakley May, has died.

Mr. May died on Oct. 19 at the age of 89. He was known for his work on community issues and in the state legislature, and his ground-breaking work on what was then known as “death with dignity.” In 1991, he proposed legislation that would improve care and expand the rights of the dying who were suffering and would also allow patients to refuse care at the end of their lives.

Mr. May, who was first elected in 1984 to his seat, was described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as “one of the best of a pretty good crop of freshmen legislators.” In his first term, he served as ranking vice chairman of the state government committee and was a member of the environmental affairs, trade and economic development committees. He was also on the select committee of Puget Sound clean-up and worked on a bill that required trucks to cover and secure their loads.

Mr. May went on to serve on the House Energy and Utilities Committee, where he worked on curbing toxic waste, among other issues.

Fred Oakley May was born in Santa Maria, Calif., to Fred and Elizabeth (Oakley) May, where he was raised with his younger twin siblings, Jim and Elizabeth. After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1942, he entered the U.S. Navy as an officer. He served with a destroyer escort in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and was in Tokyo Bay watching history being made when Japan surrendered. After WWII, Mr. May earned a MBA at Harvard Business School and took a marketing job for Westinghouse. Following his marriage to Joyce Steinwert in 1950, they lived in Marin County, Calif., where their sons, David and Peter, were born. A business promotion took Mr. May and his family to the Seattle area in 1962. They settled on Mercer Island. Mr. May worked on various civic projects and political campaigns. He went on to serve on the Mercer Island City Council. Following his retirement from Chicago Title, he was elected to the Washington Legislature, where he served four terms for the 41st District. In 1991, he sponsored House Bill 1481, which expanded the rights of terminally ill people to write a “living will,” specifying their end-of-life decisions regarding medical treatment. As a moderate Republican, he was proud to work with both parties, and consequently this bill was passed in 1992.

Mr. May was devoted to his wife and children. His sons, David and Peter, remember him as a volunteer on Boy Scout camping trips, hikes, Little League and the ski bus. After their sons were grown, Mr. May and Joyce enjoyed traveling in the United States and Europe. They also loved trips to Hawaii with their friends, the “Maui Group”. Following his fourth term in the Washington Legislature, Mr. May and Joyce divided their time between Washington state and Arizona, where they enjoyed winters at their house near Tucson.

Mr. May was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Joyce, who died in 2000. He was also preceded in death by his brother, James May, and his sister, Elizabeth Mason. He is survived by his sons, David (Jill) May of Bellingham, and Peter (Georgia) May, of Bellevue; and grandchildren, who were the joy of his life: Shane (Heidi), Brent, Katelynn, Sarah and Madeline. He is also survived by numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Mr. May’s family and friends will remember his kind, generous and gregarious nature, his boundless energy, and his willingness to serve and make this world a better place. David, Peter and their families thank the staff at Covenant Shores for their compassionate and loving care of Mr. May during the last several years.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6, at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. Remembrances are suggested to The Rotary Foundation, 14280 Collections Ctr. Dr., Chicago, IL 60693. Your thoughts and memories of Mr. May may be shared at


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