The character Lee May exemplified could be summed up as gentle and immediately approachable, but there was much more than that: May was a soulful man of the soil.
"He knew the soul of gardening," said his friend and colleague Walter Reeves. "There was hardly any distinction between his body and the earth; he just appreciated everything about a plant."
May was a journalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Los Angeles Times for more than 25 years. He was one of the AJC's first African-American editorial writers, said his wife, Lyn May.
May was a news writer and editor at the AJC in the 1970s and left for the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s.
During his tenure with the Times he wrote on a variety of issues including immigration and economics. He covered the White House during the Reagan administration. May moved from Washington to become the Times' Atlanta bureau chief in 1989.
Eddie Lee May, of Marietta, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 73.
He visited my garden and did me the high honor of pruning things I was too timid to touch. He brought me hardy begonias from his garden that bloomed beautifully at my patio wall this past September.
He left his special garden in Connecticut and moved to Georgia recently, where he started a brand new garden that promised to be as unusual and creative as the one he left. He had such plans for it.
But it was his writing that intrigued me most -- he could write about plants and design and the peculiar things that happen when you put things in the ground and tend them, in a way that really spoke to me.
He published books, but mostly I read Lee May through his gardening blog, and we struck up a back and forth commentary. Not just "nice pics", or "how lovely", but thoughtful, highly personal commentary and response on each other's blogs that was very rewarding to me.
I will miss reading and following Lee. I will miss seeing his new Georgia garden develop.
But I will think of him when the begonias pop up along my patio wall, and whenever I have pruners in my hand I will hear his gentle encouragement. More. Limb that up. You can cut a few more branches off, look how graceful that trunk is if you open it up.