RICHMOND – Richmond farming advocate Ralph May has died. He was 71.
May, a lawyer as well as a prominent cranberry grower, was distinguished by his love of family and commitment to service.
“Ralph was always proud of his farming heritage and history in Richmond and felt very strongly about giving back to the community that had been so good to his family,” says his son, Spencer May, speaking on behalf of the family.
Ralph grew up in East Richmond and farming always remained a big part of his life. He went on to become the founding partner in the law firm of Campbell, Froh, May and Rice, serving with the firm for 40 years. It counted many farmers among its clients.
“Professionally, Ralph was happy that he could combine his love of farming with his love of law. Many of his clients and his work centered on the combination of both,” says Spencer.
Personally, Ralph took great pride in his family.
“Ralph was very much a family man and with [his wife] Judy established a very close and warm family with three kids, their spouses and (collectively) their seven grandchildren,” says Spencer.
Over the years, he dedicated his time within the local farming community. He chaired the BC Cranberry Growers Association, the Cranberry Institute of North America, was a director of Ocean Spray Cranberries and founding director of the BC Expropriation Association.
May remained very active in the community, being the founding chairman of the Richmond Community Foundation, a former member of the Richmond Gateway Theatre Society and more recently, a director of the Richmond Hospital Foundation. In 1992, he received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, issued to recognize Canadians “who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, to their community or to Canada.” May was honoured, says Spencer, “to get this acknowledgement for his community work.”
May’s work in support of agriculture made a lasting impression on industry.
“Ralph became our lawyer in 1971 for personal and farm services. He was one of the most knowledgeable lawyers for the farm and ranch groups in BC,” says Peter Levelton, owner of East Richmond Nurseries Inc. “As a cranberry farmer, Ralph was acutely aware of the needs of farmers and the pitfalls we face. He gave us valuable counsel to facilitate our succession plan to our children, based upon farm logic.”
Ralph’s legal expertise proved valuable for his own family’s business during construction of Hwy 91, which split the farm in two. It was an epic challenge.
“After several months of negotiations with the transportation ministry, a settlement was reached and the May family bought acreage in Delta to continue their cranberry operation,” says Levelton.
But a few years later, the South Fraser Perimeter Road was developed and the Mays’ farm was once again impacted.
In another instance, Levelton says, May challenged Richmond’s rezoning of a hillside property that resulted in flooding on the farm below.
“The city was held accountable and the farmer got fair compensation,” states Levelton.
May is survived by his wife of 50 years, Judy, along with their sons Warren and Spencer, daughter Lindsay and their families. He is also survived by his brother Bruce and sister Louise and their families.