May was born October 5, 1910, in East Liverpool, Ohio, to John and Anna McCandless. She moved from Ohio to Santa Barbara, CA when she was five. The family arrived by train and settled into their home in the Valerio-San Andres neighborhood where relatives and friends lived. May often shared memories of her wonderful childhood growing up with her sisters Frances, Kathleen, and Marion—and brothers Jim, Orville and Graham, under the guidance of their loving parents.
May attended Wilson and Washington Elementary Schools, Santa Barbara Junior High and graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1929. She then eloped and married her high school sweetheart, Lewis Willhite. May and Lewis had two children: Roger and Susan. In 1948 May lost Lewis—her dear husband and companion—then raised Roger and Susan on her own. She worked at various places locally—the Santa Barbara Medical Clinic and the office at Santa Barbara High School. She liked her work and made many good friends along the way. May lived through the historic Santa Barbara earthquake on June 29, 1925 and loves to tell interesting stories about what went on in her neighborhood, and in town during that traumatic event.
At age 100, May still enjoys doing the crossword puzzle in the Santa Barbara News-Press. She also loves to attend the monthly parties at Pilgrim Terrace Center—to dance, sing, enjoy meals, and visits with friends. She delights in the view from the recliner on her patio, where she can watch the birds come and go. May cherishes her close relationships with her grandchildren, nieces and nephews. In return, she is loved by all of them. A charter member of the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara, she has enjoyed the services and special events there.
May is a strong, remarkable woman with a positive, can-do attitude about life. Her Irish heritage is a source of pride and she usually needs no coaxing to sing an Irish tune for any and all. She has cute ways, a bewitching smile, and eyes that twinkle as she speaks. She is a good listener too—and a transparent lady of easy grace and disarming charm. Her personal warmth and generous spirit are evident to all who know her. Her love for God and spiritual warmth endear her to all. Her faith is practical and free of pretense. She loves her Bible and cherishes her memories of early Sunday school days.