GOFFSTOWN - May Blum Sidore Gruber, born March 6, 1912, passed away peacefully at home in Goffstown on March 4, 2013, two days shy of her 101st birthday.
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A precocious scholar, she graduated New York University at 19 in 1931 and married Saul O. Sidore five months later. May and Saul then founded, with her parents, the company that became Pandora Industries, a nationally known sweater and sportswear firm. Launched in New York, it later moved its manufacturing operations to Manchester in 1940.
At Saul's death in 1964, she took control of Pandora, buying out the other partners in the family. At a time when few women operated large firms, she ran it successfully until she sold it in 1983.
All during those years as well, she devoted her energies to the company newspaper, The Yarn, helped to found the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, worked to establish a Community Guidance Center, joined Sisterhood (serving at least once as president) at Temple Adath Yeshurun and wrote a regular column (Knit and Purl) for the Manchester Free Press, a weekly newspaper she and Saul helped to found. She and Saul were also major supporters of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. In addition, they had five children, Sara Mae, Gene, Ralph, Rebecca and Micala.
In 1967, she married Sam Gruber and gained two more daughters, Mimi and Lisa. Sam's influence in some of her activities showed up in their work in the field of music - they helped to establish string music education in New Hampshire public schools, a youth orchestra and the Manchester Community Music School, formerly known as Greater Manchester Center for Arts and Music. They also supported the establishment of Child and Family Health Services in Manchester as well as, through the University of New Hampshire, a program to promote New Hampshire manufacturing. They were key supporters of the Center for Constructive Change in Durham.
As a by-product of their marriage, May and Sam became involved in acquiring art. Sam was an accomplished artist, and the pair built up a respectable collection of contemporary works, several of which May subsequently donated to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. They traveled to Iran, China, Nigeria, South Africa, Patagonia, Sri Lanka and other far-flung destinations.
May began to visit Israel regularly after the death of her daughter, Rebecca, in 1994. (Rebecca is buried there.) May became involved with a variety of organizations, working for the rights of Palestinians as well as trying to open up the civil system, which the Orthodox community has controlled for years. After Sam's death in 1996, May began a new series of trips to points far and wide - eastern and western Europe (regularly to London and Paris), Egypt, India, Japan, Bhutan and China.
In her last years, she maintained her two residences, one in New Hampshire and one in New York City. She attended exhibitions, plays, concerts, operas and other cultural events. (At the age of 99, she joined the 99 percent Wall Street protesters and held a sign.) She remained fully engaged in the world around her and made friends of all ages, remarkable for anyone, much less someone in her nineties.
May authored two books, created two foundations, relearned Hebrew and Spanish and kept in touch with her children, grandchildren (11) and great-grandchildren (15), both electronically and in person. She lived a long, full, productive life and kept trying to make the world a better place.
services: A private service will be held Thursday, March 7, at French and Rising Funeral Home in Goffstown. Later in the spring, in April, the family will hold one celebration of her life at Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester, date to be announced, and a second celebration in New York City, date and place to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made in her name to Child Health Services or Media Power Youth (which she founded with Selma Deitch and Rona Zlokower), both at 1245 Elm St., Manchester 03101.
For information or to sign an online guestbook go to frenchandrising.com.
French and Rising Funeral Home
17 South Mast Street
Goffstown, NH 03045
Published in Union Leader on Mar. 6, 2013