Dan May

Dan slipped off the island this week and won’t be coming back.  All of us Islanders are bereft, and others in the greater world too. Artist, poet, maker, gatherer, friend.

Dan lived his life here.  He left a few times but always came back, even though…it had its difficulties…

His presence here made Salem an interesting and exciting place…the galleries like the Big Sleep…

the Yellow Front…

and sometimes pop-up shows in apartments…

He worked all the time in a single-minded way that Islanders admired.  He drew on the back of your checks when you bought something (I always felt the modern “Do not write  below this line” on checks was the banks trying to subvert Dan…)

And, Dan loved us all…legions of us.  He kept track of our lives and special events, he remembered us on holidays (I always wondered how many Mother’s Day cards he made and delivered every year)…he often walked around and delivered lovely and exciting things by hand…

Dan loved movies…and books…we shared certain enthusiasms…

and he was so funny…

Over the many years every message was saved so we have a lot…

Wish we could just walk into the Snug and look down the bar…

We will miss him and his art work, his voice and messages…some of which we’ll still hear everyday…



  1. I am so sorry to hear about Dan. He was a good friend of a friend of mine, Frank Thompson, who slipped off the island some time ago.

  2. Thank you for posting this.. I have several Mother’s Day posts and Greetings from him that I now need to find. I was so saddened to here of his leaving to the nether to not return. Was wondering of a service? Lucy (Dan’s Mom was a neighbor). Missing you Dan..

  3. I feel sad I didn’t know him, but this post especially gave such wonderful insight into his creativity, steadfast friendship, and sense of the world. Lovely.

  4. It’s funny how many times his name has come up over the past couple of months. I feel like I knew him, so many references from several different people. Such a loss. You and Roger are lucky to have known him and definitely lucky to have so many remembrances of him – tangible and intangible. Thank you for posting such a personal and lovely tribute.

  5. Thank you Bonnie for the lovely tribute to Dan, Dan the Dance’n Man! I am so very sad that he has left the Island, but i wish him happy landing on the other side.

  6. So sad. I only met Dan a few years ago but loved his smile and kind spirit. A lovely person + a great loss for the community. Thank you, Bonnie, for honoring your friend so beautifully.

  7. Bonnie, I remember you, and Dan, from my years in Salem. I was dear friends with Patricia LaGai, also a friend of yours and Dan. What a beautiful remembrance of him you have shared. I am glad that Gina shared this posting with me.

  8. I’m sorry to learn of your friend’s going. It’s wonderful that you saved everything he sent: they tell of an interesting and generous person. How kind of you to honor him with this post.

  9. Dear Bonnie: I wish I had met Dan Way—although through your tribute I feel as though I know him.

    How precious are the characters in one’s life—the people you may be grateful not to have married, or not to have raised you, but who have added color and drama or, as in Dan’s case, a familiar and reassuring presence.

    Your talent astounds me!

    Love to you and Roger,


    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  10. Thank you, Bonnie, for all of the above–the art, the words, the deep feelings. I only met Dan once—and felt cheated when I heard he had left the island. A special artist & person.

  11. I happened upon your site, Bonnie, in an online search for Carl Hall, after my mind went to his painting – Ascension – that calls ground floor Hallie Ford its home. You wrote about preserving his work, and the photographs helped me to recall those Halcyon days at WU. I clicked on your site heading, and noticed your entry about Dan. You know, he came into my mind about a month ago as I was getting ready for a day at work, and a whole rush of memories and emotions coalesced and submerged me. I got to know him as a friend while I was a student at W, even had the honor of being invited into his home. My mind went to his work for the cover of a Julian Snow album that J gave to me once probably fifteen or so years ago. “That’s by Dan May,” he said. “Salem’s greatest artist, in my opinion.” My chest caved a little when I learned of Dan’s crossing of the threshold. I consider myself blessed to have met him, and gotten to know him the way I did (a special thanks to Pete’s Place for that). Dan is a cross-hatching in the elaborate tapestry that is Salem. The older I get, the more I cherish my home town, despite having left it to pursue life elsewhere. I should say, not in spite of that fact, but in recognition of it. It is people like Dan, and you and Roger, and my parents, and Carl Hall…in your actions and practice…that help life to continue to spring in and out of time.

  12. Thank you Bonnie for this beautifully written and illustrated tribute. I knew Dan from my days at OCE and living in the Salem area. I was looking at his pieces at the Portland Art Museum today and was shocked and saddened to see the museum card listed 2019 as the year of his death. Besides being an incredible artist Dan always seemed to be the exemplification of an artist with integrity, making his own individual way in the world with kindness, humor and grace.

    1. You are absolutely right Kathleen…”making his own individual way in the world with kindness, humor and grace…” It’s a pretty flat world here in Islandsalem without Dan. Love to you.

  13. Thank you Bonnie, for this. I knew Dan sort of peripherally when I was at OCE – my advisor and mentor Larry Stobie and Dan were friends – I still have near my desk a collage of his from a small fundraising event a group of students put together for a friend in need. I didn’t really know Dan very well, but he has stayed with me over all these years, which is in line with others’ memories of him. I was so sad to learn of his dying, but how many were touched in big and little ways by his time on the island…

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