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Daron L. McDowell-May

December 8, 1941 ~ September 3, 2020 (age 78)


Daron L. McDowell-May, 78 of Palmyra, passed away on Thursday, September 3, 2020 at her home.

Daron was born on December 8, 1941 in Delafield, WI, the daughter of Willett and Helen (McDowell) Handley.  She was raised by Russell and Hazel McDowell, her maternal grandparents. Growing up on the family farm in Delafield, WI, she developed a love for horses and enjoyed riding her Arabian mare, named Star, daily.  Her grandparents instilled in her the core Christian values she would hold so dear in life, and would later instill in her own children and grandchildren.   Family was so important to her – affectionately known as “Grandma Dita,”  she considered her role as wife, mom, and grandma as her number one priority in life, second only to the deep faith in Jesus Christ she developed during these last few years, and just ahead of her outspoken love of this great nation. Dita’s love for the beauty of God’s creation knew no bounds and was manifest in so many parts of her life, whether showing appreciation of the plants and flowers in her own well kept gardens, to her exuberance at the amazing sunsets on the lake, she never missed a chance to pause and take it in.  She loved the water and sandy beaches, visiting dozens throughout her many travels.  She loved all of God’s creatures, except perhaps for chipmunks and woodchucks because they messed with her gardens.  Everywhere she went, she would bring back a memento, or sometimes boxes of mementoes, usually consisting of shells, sea glass, and blue antique bottles.  She always threatened to move somewhere warm near the beach, but couldn’t bring herself to leave her cherished home on the lake here in the Midwest despite the cold winters.  The hope and promise of the next great adventure or destination always kept her wanderlust satisfied. Her zest for life was omnipresent and contagious and her hospitality was well known. Consistently, guests to Dita’s home would be greeted with kindness, warmth, libations, and gifts of scrumptious food and treats like her legendary Christmas cookies and apple crisp made from handed-down family recipes.  No matter where she was, she wanted to be in the middle of the fun and commotion, never missing out on a story or just a chance to enjoy fellowship with friends and family. 

She is survived by: her husband Bill May of Palmyra; children Suzanne (Vann) Cochran of Charleston, SC, Tom (Donna) Griffith, Michael (Nicole) Holzbauer of Bristol, WI, Sandra (Mark) Meindl of West Bend, WI, Karen (Steve) Koehn of Winneconne, WI, Sharon (Gary) Maras of Pardeeville, WI, William (Autumn) May of Roseville, CA, and Lena May of Aurora, MO; grandchildren Rebecca (J.R.), Rita, Charlotte, Travis (Joanne), Kyrstin (Kevin), Allie, Kaitlyn, Nikita, Delilah, Isaac, William, Samantha, and Madison; great grandchildren Jameson and Braxton; siblings Paul Petschek of Studio City, CA, Brad Petschek of Ft. Collins, CO, and Connie (Mike) Autrey of Bozeman, MT.  Daron is also survived by many other relatives and friends.

She is preceded in death by her parents, grandparents, prior husband Frank Muellenbach, and many other relatives.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Daron’s memory to the Palmyra Food Pantry - or the St. Mark’s Food Pantry in Madison -

To all of Daron’s (Dita’s) friends and extended family: we know everyone is wondering about arrangements. Due to restrictions related to the pandemic, we’re hoping to hold a non-socially distanced, knock-down, drag out life celebration service for Daron sometime in late spring or summer 2021.  She loved warm weather and parties.  Details are not yet known. Please subscribe to Daron’s facebook feed - - information will be posted there and likely cross-posted to other family pages. If you are not on Facebook and would like to be contacted by another means, please inform the family directly.

Gibson Family Funeral Homes of Palmyra & Eagle, WI is caring for the family.  To place an online condolence please visit

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Daron L. McDowell-May, please visit our floral store.


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