Saturday, November 6, 2004

May Orton Westheimer, 82, was volunteer, philanthropist

'Her hand was always in the air. She loved to help other people.'

By Jennifer Mrozowski
Enquirer staff writer

May Orton Westheimer, a volunteer and philanthropist, died Tuesday at Christ Hospital after complications from surgery. She was 82.

A lifelong Cincinnatian, she attended Mrs. Lotspeich's Elementary School and Walnut Hills High School. She graduated from Vassar College in 1932 with a degree in chemistry.

Mrs. Westheimer, who worked briefly as a chemist for Procter & Gamble in World War II, spent much of her life dedicated to volunteerism and activism.

As an activist, she and her brother, J. Robert Orton Jr. of LaJolla, Calif., helped recruit Jane Fonda to speak at the University of Cincinnati during the Vietnam War, Mr. Orton said. She also fought to integrate the Clifton Meadows swim club.

Mrs. Westheimer volunteered with Camp Stepping Stones; the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

In 1991, Mrs. Westheimer and her husband Charles I. Westheimer, endowed an annual lecture series, now called the Westheimer Peace Symposium, at Wilmington College.

In 1993, Wilmington College recognized her for her excellence in leadership. She received the Samuel S. Sheffield Volunteer of the Year Award from the Cincinnati Association for the Blind in 1999.

"From as early as I can remember, she was always involved," said her son, Tom, of Hancock, N.H. "They say there are 20 percent of the people who do 80 percent of the work. Well, she was that 20 percent. Her hand was always in the air. She loved to help other people."

The Mount Adams resident also was a member of the Current Topics Club and the International Club, a bridge player, knitter, cook and world traveler.

Mrs. Westheimer and her husband hosted about 40 foreign students in their home.

In addition to her son, brother and husband, survivors include two other sons, John of Lebanon and Bill of West Orange, N.J.; two daughters, Mary Caron of Phoenix and Duffie Westheimer of Flagstaff, Ariz.; and five granddaughters.

A memorial reception was held Friday at the Baur Room of the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Memorials: the Cincinnati Association for the Blind, Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association of Cincinnati or the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


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