Vera MayJuly 22, 1913 ~ January 9, 2018 (age 104)
Vera Maye Brummett May, beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, went to be with the Lord on January 9, 2018, at the age of 104. She will be remembered by all those who knew her as someone who blessed them with her love, faith, phone calls, and good food.
Vera was born on July 22, 1913 in Lexington, Texas to James Logan Brummett and Vera Lee Hollis Brummett. She is preceded in death by her husband, I.T. May, daughter, Wanda Lou Rogers, her parents, and siblings J.L. Brummett Jr. (known as J.D.), Laura Belle Mills and Bess Hart.
Vera is survived by children Mary Lee Lewis, I.T. “Buddy” May, Jr. and wife Lisa, and Linda Sue Werchan and husband Ronald, 13 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, 6 great-great- grandchildren, and special friends Gloria Cerrato and Enell Cooper.
At a young age, her parents instilled the importance of family, community, and public service in Vera. During the depression, Vera’s father was fortunate to have a job with United Gas. She remembers many occasions when he purchased vegetables from peddlers and sent the food anonymously to neighbors. He also found part-time jobs for people who needed work to provide for their families. In short, Vera learned that people took care of each other, cooked for friends and family during times of need, or helped out in any way they could. One of her earliest memories is of trains cutting through the Lexington countryside loaded with caskets coming home from World War I. The sight made a deep impression on five year old Vera.
She attended Arnold grade school, a two-room country school house, until the fourth grade, and transferred to Phears grade school when her family moved to a nearby town. Vera attended Phears through the sixth grade. As a small child, she and her brother, J.D., followed “roadrunner snake” trails in the sand to entertain themselves. Occasionally, they would find the snake and it would chase them down the path or road; at this point the game was not longer fun. Vera and J.D. also enjoyed looking for quail coveys or bird nests, and climbing trees and fences. Other than jacks, pick-up-sticks, balls and dolls, they had very few toys and created their own fun. Vera speaks fondly of playing house using broken glass for dishes; she and J.D. drew rooms and furniture in the sand. At school the children played games such as Kick-the-bucket and Annie Over. She also remembers many arms being broken during competitive Red Rover contests.
Vera said that things were just different during that era. Her family traveled to Wednesday night prayer meetings in a wagon and made the trip again for Sunday services. Although they didn’t have a lot in the way of material passions, Vera said they were rich. The families in the area all had the same thing, and her family had each other.
In 1925, the Brummett family moved to Galena Park where Vera discovered her love of languages and began tutoring her peers in Spanish. She recalls that some of her teachers traveled from Houston each day on a small commuter train. In school, she studied Latin and Spanish graduating co-valedictorian in 1931 from Galena Park High School. Vera hoped one day to become a translator and court reporter; and felt her knowledge of languages would be helpful to the growing number of immigrants in the Houston area.
Galena Park was a small community in the late 1920’s and had one church building to serve all the faithful. Baptist and Methodist preachers alternated Sunday services. Vera and her family attended both services until her grand-mother founded the first Church of the Nazarene in Galena Park. Transportation was difficult on the mud roads and very few people had cars. Vera recalls that her family walked most places -- however, when they needed to travel some distance they borrowed her Uncle’s car. In order to travel to Houston, her Uncle would take them to Buffalo Bayou where they crossed on an early motor boat to catch a street car downtown.
Vera met Irby Taft May (known as I.T.) of Huffman in 1929. He was the son of Kinney Jackson May and Mary Gertrude Meyers. Following their marriage in 1933, I.T. and Vera lived in Franklin, Louisiana for 8½ years where I.T. worked for United Gas. Their first child, Mary Lee, was born on November 4, 1934, and they welcomed their son, I.T. (Buddy) May, Jr. on June 25, 1936. One of their goals was to move back to Texas, so in June 1941, they bought a small grocery store in Galena Park. Although it was difficult to leave his young family, I.T. returned to Louisiana where he planned to continue working for United Gas until the grocery store could support their family.
Vera managed day-to-day operations of “I.T. May Grocery” and lived in a two room efficiency behind the store with her children. She said living behind the store wasn’t all bad; at least she was able to stock the shelves after putting the children to bed. Looking back, she recalls that cokes and other sodas, which were sold for a nickel, were iced down in a large cooler. The water was frigid and the store help was charged with reaching in and dipping out cold drinks for customers. It wasn’t a pleasant task. The grocery store charged a one cent deposit for each bottle and customers were paid the same when they returned one.
In December, 1941, following Pearl Harbor, Vera came down with a severe case of pneumonia. When I.T.’s supervisor wouldn’t allow him to take time off to be by his wife’s bedside, I.T. quit his job of 12 years with United Gas and returned to Galena Park. Fortunately doctors prescribed a new, unproven drug – Sulfa -- and Vera was able to leave the hospital after 15 days.
Several months after returning to Galena Park, United Gas sent top management to urge I.T. to return to the company. If he did not rejoin United Gas, I.T. was told that he would have to join the military. To do either, I.T. would have to close the store because Vera was still weak from pneumonia. I.T. returned to Louisiana and went before the draft board to request a military pardon. Because the grocery store supplied a work force critical to the war effort in the ship channel area, the U.S. government permitted I.T. to remain in Galena Park and run the store with Vera.
In December 1942, their third child, Wanda, was born. Running the grocery store was not an easy task because of the long hours and difficulties brought on by the rationing of goods such as sugar, coffee, fresh and canned meat, canned milk and canned vegetables. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening the couple spent several hours counting ration stamps before depositing them in the bank. They also soon learned to expect a knock on the door in the middle of the night from customers in need of groceries. To escape the 24-hour schedule, they took their family to Huffman on weekends where I.T. grew up and where his parents still lived. After living behind the store about a year, the family bought a small house and moved to Holland Avenue in Galena Park. I.T. and Vera owned and managed the grocery store for four years. In their last year of operation, the grocery store grossed $250 thousand, an enormous sum for the day.
Sometime during the early 1940’s Vera decided to take a two week course to learn to prepare income tax returns for their business. The class was in downtown Houston and she drove to and from town every day until receiving her certificate. Vera later began preparing tax returns for family and friends.
In 1944, I.T. pursued an opportunity to build houses for government employees working in the Port Arthur area. In order to oversee the work this meant leaving the children and Vera, who was expecting their fourth child, every Monday morning and returning Friday at midnight. In seven months’ time, his work crews built 160 houses and finished ahead of schedule; however, this feat of production came in second to that of Vera, who ran the store, raised three small children, and delivered their baby, Linda, on November 9, the day the last house was completed. The grueling effort paid off when it provided the down payment on their 4428 acre ranch in Huffman. In June 1945 they moved to Huffman and began farming and ranching shortly after.
The young family was thrilled with the move to Huffman; however, there were some adjustments for everyone. Before electricity was installed in December, 1945, oil lamps were used for light. Perishables, such as milk, were kept cool in a propane refrigerator or in an ice box. Blocks of ice were purchased at Matheny’s grocery store, which was located near what is today the intersection of FM 1960 and FM 2100. Meals were cooked with a propane stove. Clothes were washed in a gasoline powered washing machine, dried on a clothes line and ironed with a propane iron. A single milk cow provided enough milk and dairy products to feed the family as well as animals on the ranch. Whipped cream and butter were churned using a hand mixer. Corn was ground using a hammer-mill to feed livestock. What wasn’t grown in the garden or produced by hens, hogs, or cattle had to be purchased in Galena Park. Every Saturday Vera’s paneled truck returned home filled to the brim with groceries.
Another convenience missing until 1965 was a telephone. Few local residents had one in their home and the U.S. mail was the primary mode of communication for the family. Without a telephone it was commonplace for friends to drop in unannounced, so Vera learned to cook in large quantities for family, workmen and local farmers. Several pans of corn bread and 4-5 pounds of beans were cooked for most daily meals, and on Sunday, Vera rose early to cook several kinds of meat for a large crowd.
I.T. and Vera’s older children, Mary Lee and Buddy, attended school in Huffman for a couple of years before the family bought a small house in Dayton in 1947 when Mary Lee began high school. The family stayed in Dayton during the week and came home to Huffman every weekend. In 1954 following the completion of their new home, they no longer maintained their household in Dayton. Since the younger children were still in school, this meant countless trips to and from Dayton between 1954 and 1961. Gasoline was frequently purchased at the Sinclair gas station in Huffman.
In 1950, Vera and Irby opened “May’s of Dayton”, a state of the art clothing store for women. The store, which offered the latest fashions, was successful until its closing in 1953. Although life centered around her family and the store, Vera discovered her love of cards and began playing canasta with a group of ladies in approximately 1955. Vera continued to play with the group until recent years and taught bridge at the Community Center.
In 1968, I.T. and Vera donated ten acres to Harris County Precinct 4 in order for local children to have a place to play baseball. They envisioned a facility that could be used and enjoyed by the entire community. Prior to the park’s creation, local children played baseball in a cow pasture. I.T. and Vera’s son, Buddy, served as the first Huffman Little League President. In 1977 I.T. and Vera donated five acres for a football field adjacent to the baseball park, and in approximately 1985 Vera donated three additional acres for the Vera Brummett May Community Center, which opened in 1987 under the direction of a close family friend, Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner E.A. “Squatty” Lyons. In 1999 under the direction and support of Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole, the I.T. May Sports Complex and Vera Brummett May Community Center expanded once again to encompass a total of over 74 acres, including approximately 55 acres which were purchased by Harris County Precinct 4.
Recognizing the need for a local bank in the community, I.T., Vera, and their son Buddy, filed for a charter with the Texas Banking Commission in 1973. It was granted in June of the same year and Huffman Bank became a reality in February 1974. Following the death of her husband in 1978, Vera served as Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors along with her son Buddy. In 1990, Vera retired from the Board to devote more time to her family, charitable work and other personal interests.
Vera would have celebrated her 105th birthday on July 22, 2018. In her 104 year as a wife, mother, business woman, and friend, she was a role model for all those whose lives she touched. She dedicated her life to family, community, and public service and instilled in her children and grand children a tradition of giving back.
Vera’s many pursuits and interests included:
Having joined the Parent Teacher Organization (P.T.O.) in 1945, Vera has enjoyed over 60 years of service with the P.T.O. and P.T.A. While raising her children, Vera served as room mother for all four of her children, sometimes concurrently. In 1988, she was given the honor of “Lifetime Member” by the Huffman P.T.A and has served as Grand Marshall of numerous Huffman I.S.D. homecoming parades.
Vera joined the Houston Chapter of the Aggie Mom’s Club in 1953 when her son, Buddy, began his freshman year at Texas A&M. In 1979 Vera gave a permanent endowment in honor of her late husband and continues to support the University. Many of her grandchildren have fond memories of post-game “tailgate” parties at Kyle Field. Some of her fondest memories were of the tailgating-parties at Kyle Field through 30 consecutive football seasons.
Vera and her late husband began actively supporting the Huffman Future Farmers of America (FFA) in 1973 and following his death in 1978, Huffman I.S.D. named the Agriculture Center after I.T. May, Sr.
Vera joined the Lake Houston Garden Club in 1979, a group of gardening enthusiasts, which raises money for college scholarships. She served as an Officer of the organization for four years.
Vera joined Lake Houston Seniors, a social and outreach organization for senior adults, in 1982 and served over 25 as the organization’s President.
Upon joining the Lake Houston United Methodist Church in 1983, Vera began actively supporting her church and has served on committees too numerous to mention. She was a member of the Willing Workers Sunday School Class and the Lake Houston Christian Women.
In 1984, Vera joined the Huffman Lions Club and continues to remain active. In her 30 plus years of service she has participated in raffles, BBQ cook-offs, and many community service activities. In 2000, Vera was named “Lion of the Year” for her services in 1999-2000.
Following the opening of the Vera Brummett May Community Center in 1987, Vera began volunteering and served as an Officer of Volunteers In Action (V.I.A.), the volunteer arm of May Community Center, for several years.
From 1988 to 1996, she worked as a volunteer at Northeast Medical Center Hospital.
At the age of 79, Vera began delivering Meals on Wheels throughout the Huffman and Crosby communities; she volunteered for the program for 5 years.
At the age of 80, Vera began mentoring students in the Huffman I.S.D.’s “Lunch Buddy” program for at-risk children. In May 2004, Huffman I.S.D.’s Board of Trustees honored Vera with the Star Team Award in recognition for outstanding performance in serving the children of the Huffman and surrounding communities.
In February 2004, Vera was named the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Year” in recognition of her accomplishments and service.
Vera and her late husband, I.T., were honored by the Huffman Little League Association in April 2004 as the organization re-dedicated the I.T. May Park and Sports Complex. Vera was Grand Marshall of the parade and threw out the first pitch of the 2004 Little League season.
In June 2004, shortly before her 91st birthday, Vera received the Points of Light Foundation “President’s Call to Service Award” at an event attended by 41st President of the United States George H.W. Bush and Houston Mayor Bill White. Master of Ceremonies, KTRK News Anchor Melanie Lawson, summarized Vera’s lifetime of achievement and service, and praised her family tradition of “giving back to the community.”
When asked in a newspaper interview in 2016 about her community service, Vera said “children are our future. That’s where it starts. If you care for your community, your friends and your family, that’s what you do. If we leave this earth feeling like we have been an asset instead of a burden, that is what I am trying to do.” She was a valuable asset to her family and her community. Her legacy lives on.
Friends are invited to visit with the family from 5pm until 8pm on Friday, January 12, 2018 in the chapel of Sterling Funeral Home, 602 N. Main Street, Dayton, Texas. A funeral service will be held at 11am on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Lake Houston United Methodist Church, 23606 FM 2100, Huffman, Texas. A graveside service and committal will immediately follow in Huffman Cemetery.
Honoring the family by serving as pallbearers will be Toby May, Richard Dodgen, David Lewis, Robert Lewis, Greg Werchan, Carlos May, Edward Rogers and Ellis Werchan. Honorary pallbearers are Michael Quintanillo, Tony Schlaeger, Scott Conner, Mark Lewis, Tom Couch, David Hicks, Tom Lutz, Zachary Gadberry and all her grandsons.