May Cheyne Porco shed the bonds of this world and passed into eternal grace on August 28th 2014 after 63 years of sharing the beauty of life with everyone she touched.
May was born on August 12th 1951 in Providence, RI, to Harold and Ruth Cheyne, and grew up in Mansfield, MA. May cultivated a love of books and sketched many of the wonders of the world that she found around her. She shared the adventures of childhood with her brother Jeff (Betty) and sister Debbie (Harry) in the backyard of her mother's house. On a sunny June 5th in 1971, in that same backyard, May was joined in marriage with her dearest companion, Carmen Porco. They shared a passion for education, equality, and social justice. Their mutual concern for the betterment of others helped form a loving bond that carried them from neglected apartment developments in New York to neighborhoods plagued by violence in Los Angeles, and ultimately to help resolve social conflict in Madison. At each stop they challenged each other to be better people and enabled the people around them to empower themselves. May worked with Carmen over 43 years to build learning centers in low-income housing communities. Together they came to Madison in 1974, and over the next 40 years May raised a family to know the meaning and work that went into creating a home. Her immediate family includes a son John (Sarah) and daughters Dorothy and Margaret (Bryan), as well as grandchildren: Emerson, Lowell, Carson, and Olin.
May and her children wandered beaches looking for little treasures in the sand, and she built a world of wonder with them one sandcastle at a time. She walked in the woods with her grandchildren looking for the perfect acorn, all the while passing along her admiration for the beauty in everything as well as her infinite compassion for everyone. She cherished the wonder in her own children and grandchildren, and worked to enrich that wonder in other children as a Montessori teacher. First as a teacher at Woodland Montessori School, then as both a teacher and director at Montessori Children's House, May breathed hope and curiosity into generations of children. Her lap was always ready for a child with a book, and her arms wrapped people with the most intent and comforting hugs. She wore fun socks and radiated a warm joy with her patient smile.
In her every action May lived her alma mater's (Wellesley College '73) motto "non ministrari sed ministrare" (not to be served, but to serve) and brought her love of learning to the university of Wisconsin (MA - English '78). More treasured than learning, however, were the profound and long friendships May carried and deepened as she walked through life: with Diane D'Amico, Candy Fleming, Jo Ekleberry, Bernice Wahle, and enough others to fill several newspapers. May gave us more than the gift of her life, she allowed us to truly live. Blessed by our mutual affection, she gave us far more than love.
The sincerity of May's compassion has shown us the deeper meaning of life, and a profound sense of our purpose. She made the sunsets more beautiful, the world more inviting, and this journey infinitely more enjoyable. She taught us to laugh at nature's jokes even while drifting in a sea of sadness. We have been grateful to walk in the garden of May's unconditional love, and will continue to enjoy the company of her spirit in the many treasures that life places around and within us.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, September 20th, 11:00 A.M. at First Baptist Church(518 N. Franklin Ave, Madison WI). Gifts in May's honor may be sent to Montessori Children's House, Northport and Packers Community Learning Center, or The First Baptist Church of Madison.