September 5, 1914- June 29, 2013
Resident of San Carlos
A third-generation San Franciscan, born September 5, 1914 at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco, May Eileen Groeper Coon, age 98, the daughter of Edwin William Groeper, a tug-boat captain, and Augusta May—from whence came her name—lived a life of accomplishments, going peacefully to her eternal rest June 29, 2013 at the San Carlos Elms assisted living center.
May's brother Alvin Groeper of Walnut Creek, four years younger, proceeded May in death in December, 2012. May and Alvin trod the decks of their father's tug boat on S.F. Bay and relished those adventures.
May is survived by two sons, Robert and Allen; three grandsons, Justin, Kerry, and Matthew; and three great-granddaughters, Hannah, Keala, and Sadie. Her son Rodger, Robert's twin, passed away last December just two weeks before her brother Alvin. She leaves a niece Carolyn Hernandez of Antioch and cousins Barbara Luther and Beverly Baske of Placerville. Rodger's widow, Lorie, died unexpectedly just two days before May.
May attended Mission High School, where she studied German, and after graduation in 1931, became a secretary with a steamship line; her skills kept her employed throughout the Great Depression and WWII. She took dictation and typed 100 wpm correcting the grammar and syntax on the fly.
In 1940 she married James Coon, father of her twins Robert and Rodger. She divorced her first husband in 1945 and married his brother, Carl Coon—partly, she said, because she had a great mother-in-law—and bore her third son, Allen. During and after WWII her family lived in Crows Landing, California; Pensacola, Florida; and Anacortes in Washington; her husband a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.
Divorced, and on her own, May held secretarial jobs at Peninsula auto dealerships, and took early retirement after 25 years from a national insurance company. She was an avid crossword puzzle solver. She had an eye for typos, poor grammar, and poorly written sentences in newspaper articles. She carried on an active correspondence with a nationally syndicated newspaper grammar columnist. Her initials MEC appeared in the column countless times.
Her children grown, she set out to explore the world with her new hobby, photography, making both 8mm movies and taking slide photos. She flew in one of the first airplanes to travel from Cairo, Egypt to Jerusalem. She rode a camel in front of the pyramids, took a train to Machu Picchu in Peru, walked the beach at Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and viewed Iguazu Falls from Argentina. She took cruises: one through the Panama Canal and another to Alaska undeterred by the hurricane encountered on the return to San Francisco. She made trips to Europe in search of her heritage, visiting Denmark, Germany, and Austria. May joined the Peninsula Movie Makers where she could display her travel films and slides.
She expanded her piano playing ability to a home organ and took lessons from Larry Embury, an organist at the Pizza & Pipes in Redwood City, where she could practice and perform on the mighty Wurlitzer as a member of two organ clubs. She wrote a song, San Carlos, My Home Town, for its annual Home Town Days celebration in 1980. Her favorite charity is the Peninsula Association for Retarded Children and Adults (PARCA).
Seeking companionship she met Joe Heim of Menlo Park. For 32 years they traveled together taking countless automobile vacations driving through the American Southwest; north to Lake Louise, Canada; as far east as Toronto; a circuitous trip across the U.S. to Florida; up the East Coast to Virginia; and back to California. They cruised the Caribbean together for ten days. She flew to Stockholm at age 85 to join him as they toured Sweden and Norway.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, August 17, at 10:00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto (FUMC) where she is a member. May lived life to its fullest, on her own terms, by her own grit, determination, and talent, taking guff from no one. Donations may be made to the FUMC Organ Fund, or PARCA. Interment will be at Cypress Lawn, Colma.
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Aug. 4, 2013