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May Robertson Baskin Hutchinson died August 7, 2020. May was blessed with a brilliant mind, boundless energy, good health, and a long life in which she made an indelible and lasting impression on her family and her beloved home, Abbeville. She was the daughter of the late Eugenia Robertson Baskin and Charles Augustus Baskin, Sr. and was predeceased by her husband, Rufus Wood Hutchinson, Jr., and her brother, Charles Augustus Baskin, Jr. She is survived by two daughters, Jean Robertson Hutchinson of Charleston, and Ann Fulmer Hutchinson Waigand (Fred) of Camden, Maine, and two granddaughters Miriam and Anna, both of Vienna, Virginia.
Born on April 5, 1922, in the same bedroom (and bed) in which she went to sleep for the last time, May never tired of telling Abbevillians how much she had hated the town, the birthplace of her mother and father, as a child. “There was always something that needed to be ï¬xed on that old house,” she would say, which meant a weekend spent overseeing work on the house and dollars that could have been used for toys, books, or clothes consumed instead by the old family home. Maturity brought a diï¬€erent viewpoint as May happily returned to Abbeville, with her husband, Hutch, in 1977, after 30 years in Charleston, to spend her retirement in her hometown.
May’s childhood was spent in a series of small upstate towns—Duncan, Donalds, Greer, Taylors—where her father, a pharmacist, opened drugstores. He died unexpectedly when she was nine, in the midst of the Great Depression, and she mourned his loss throughout her life. Raised by her mother, Eugenia, and her aunt, May Lorton Robertson (May May), both formidable women (May May served as a school principal in the 1920s), May spent the majority of her growing-up years in Greenville on East North Street.
May graduated from Greenville High School (Class of 1939) where the experience of almost being voted Shyest Girl in the Class in Senior Superlatives forever changed her. She headed to Greenville Women’s College (Furman University, Class of 1943) determined that her voice would be heard. At Furman, where she majored in History and English and minored in French, she was co-editor of the literary magazine, The Echo, and elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges. A gifted writer, she always credited the Gilpatricks, professors at Furman, for their inspired teaching and long-term inï¬‚uence on her.
Through most of her life, May never stopped moving. As head of the Moreland Garden Club, she led a group to Columbia to get Gov. Hollings to sign a law making it “unlawful to cut, break, or destroy sea oats.” In 1962, she started teaching ï¬rst grade, with 42 students in her ï¬rst class (and no assistant!), and went on to make an impact on 20 years of ï¬rst graders, ï¬rst at Oakland Elementary, then at St. Andrew’s Elementary, and ï¬nally at Antreville Elementary. Virtually every day of the summer, she and her girls would visit Folly Beach, which she called “Heaven on Earth,” and she would “adopt” a diï¬€erent author each summer and devote her beach time to reading through his/her works. In her home, it was not uncommon to ï¬nd her homemade signs taped to knives, forks, spoons, plates, glasses, chairs, etc. in her unending eï¬€orts to teach her daughters French.
To say May was opinionated would be the understatement of the century. She never met a saying that she couldn’t put her own “stamp” on. “He just went by like a bat out of Hell” became “…bat out of London” because May thought she shouldn’t say Hell in front of her children.“What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” was, for May, “…the price of eggs in China,” and her daughters never knew that Mama had changed the words until, as adults, someone would ask them, gape-mouthed, “What did you just say?” And there was always a cause she had to champion. Her daughters still recall their embarrassment when her
picture in the Charleston paper, protesting a planned development on the marsh on the Ashley River, showed her carrying a pocketbook in addition to her protest sign! At 94, in January 2017, with the aid of her walker, she marched with Jean and Ann around the Abbeville Square in order to participate in the Women’s March.
May particularly loved Abbeville, Trinity Episcopal Church, and her cats, one of whom, Molly, survives her (at least six additional cats predeceased her, most of whom are buried under the redwood tree in the garden). In Abbeville, she served on the Board of the Abbeville Museum, helped write the Historic Preservation Ordinance and served as co-chair of Abbeville’s Historic Properties Protection Commission, co-founded HATS (Historic Abbeville Tour Service), wrote the Abbeville Fitness Walk tour, and for many years designed and led a week-long Elderhostel based at Erskine University and the Belmont Inn. At Trinity, she was the longest-serving Church Historian, a position she held at her death, and was, for many years, a member of the church vestry. Her 95th-birthday celebration was one of the biggest fundraisers ever held for Trinity’s restoration, which she had hoped to live to see completed.
Many people jokingly called Henry Green May’s personal “press agent,” and we wish to thank Henry for the many stories he wrote over the years for the various causes May supported. We wish to thank especially May’s neighbor, Mary Chase Neuï¬€er Ford, whose support, visits, and friendship meant so much to her for over half a century. Words can’t express the debt of gratitude we owe to Donna Cape, who loved May like her own mother and whose devotion to May’s care made such a diï¬€erence in her life over the last few years.
Memorials in memory of May, in support of the restoration of a place she cherished, Trinity Episcopal Church, may be mailed to Preservation South Carolina, Sacred Spaces Restore Trinity Fund, PO Box 448, Abbeville, SC 29620 or made online at www.restoretrinity.org.
A memorial service will be held at a later date, when we can all be together.
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