Don John May

April 26, 1940January 2, 2021

Don’s life cannot be summed up by a few words on a page. He was strong, larger than life, full of charm and wit. His smile made you smile. He loved his people without conditions. He loved his dogs like he loved his people. He was true to his word. He was a man who nursed a geranium for three years, keeping it alive by giving it a warming lamp in the garage over winter. He never sold anything for more than it was worth. He never said an unkind word about anyone. He showed up when you needed him. He never let you down.

His loss is felt profoundly by all those who knew him.

The road to become this tower of a man started in Nebraska, where he was the second of four children born to John and Ruth (nee Frye) May. He was raised in Sweet Home, Oregon and Willow Creek, California. He graduated from Hoopa High School in 1958. He attended Shasta Junior College and served in the US Air Force from 1961-1965. He was stationed at Bunker Hill (now Grissom) AFB near Kokomo, Indiana, where he worked on the B-58 Hustler, the first supersonic nuclear bomber. It was there he met his wife Pauletta Thatcher and moved her back home to Northern California at his first opportunity. He was a member of the Willow Creek Volunteer fire department for 30 years, but for most of his career he worked as a mechanic. This work moved him to Las Vegas in 1996 to work as a welder for New-Com. He was a member of the Operating Engineers Local 12 and, wherever he was in the world, he was a lifetime member of the NRA.

He and Pauletta moved to Carson City in 2006 supposedly to be closer to their daughter, but we all know it was to be closer to his grandkids, to whom he brought joy well into their adulthood. Don was an avid outdoorsman, spending his leisure time camping, hunting, and exploring the desert on his ATV. An expertly skilled mechanic, he could make anything work and spent hours restoring his beloved 1957 Jeep Wagon. At the end of one long camping trip, his truck refused to start. Exhausting all options, he took off his sock, dipped it into the fuel tank, stuffed the sock into the carburetor, and away we went! He worked hard his whole life, instilling a sense of responsibility and work ethic in his children and those around him. He also played hard, and fun found him wherever he went. Don had a knack for befriending and mentoring those in every generation; his kid’s and grandkid’s friends adored him as their own family.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years Pauletta, who has a lot of crap to go through because the one thing we didn’t mention was Don was a packrat; his son Kenny May, in Portland, who has inherited his father’s talents at fixing anything and everything, and Kenny’s fiancé Jennifer who Don loved to tease relentlessly; his daughter Victoria Coolbaugh and her husband Sam of Carson City, who produced the illustrious grandchildren Sydney and Scott (there are no greater grandchildren ever created, just ask Don); his little sister Leona Koenig of Crescent City, Ca., and her husband Allen who we all only tolerate was his best friend (that joke probably seems ill timed, but trust us, Don would love it). Don’s brothers Vern and Gene went before him, and we can only imagine the lies they are telling now that they are back together.

Details for a memorial service at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery are pending. If you would like to honor Don, you may do so by donating to the Nevada Department of Veterans Services or to Quilts of Valor


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Don John May

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Pauletta May

January 11, 2021

Don playing with Sydney

Victoria Coolbaugh

January 7, 2021

Thank you to everyone who have sent flowers, emails, texts, cards and letters. I know it would mean so much to my dad that you have given us this support.