She was known simply as Cordy to family and friends, who remembered a warm and giving person who crafted a witty note, told a great story and kept a keen watch over her charitable interests, which supported conservation groups, Planned Parenthood and other causes.
Mrs. May was divorced from her first husband, Herbert A. May, Jr., but continued to use his name after she married Allegheny County District Attorney Robert W. Duggan. Duggan killed himself with a shotgun in 1974, hours before being indicted by a grand jury for income tax evasion and racketeering.
Even before Duggan's death, Mrs. may eschewed publicity in all forms and guarded her privacy zealously. Early in her life, she battled with her family, failed at love and fought alcohol addiction, according to several sources. She did not like to appear in public, nor did she wish to see her name in print.
Through the Laurel Foundation, which she established in 1951, Mrs. May gave away millions of dollars in grants on the condition that the recipient not disclose her name or that of the foundation.
The foundation funds cultural, educational, conservation and beautification initiatives in the United States. Locally, the foundations supports the Montour Trail, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, the RiverLife Task Force, the Pittsburgh Conservancy, and the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
Mrs. May, who was born in 1928, was the eldest child of Sarah Cordelia Mellon and Alan Magee Scaife. She was reared by governesses and nurses in the protective confines of Penguin Court, the family's Ligonier estate which she would later describe as palatial, but never happy.
Like other young women of her social class, she was educated at the private, yet progressive Falk School and later at the more conservative Ellis Schho. She later graduated from Foxcroft School in Virginia.
Mrs. may wanted to study languages and attended Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh before dropping out to marry. She eventually returned to Pitt and studied British history.
On June 30, 1949, she wed the outgoing Herbert May, Jr. After her family banished her to Palm Beach, Florida for four years because of the embarrassment of divorce, Mrs. May returned to Pittsburgh and renewed her friendship with Duggan.
Mrs. May and Duggan married in Nevada in 1973 just days after Mrs. May was notified by the Internal Revenue Service that she would have to answer questions about Duggan, leading to specualtion that the marriage was calculated because a wife cannot be compelled to testify against her husband.more » « less