Mae Louise Allen Mays, wife of baseball legend Willie Mays for 41 years, died Friday at their Atherton home after a 16-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 74.
Mr. Mays announced his wife's death through the San Francisco Giants.
Growing up in the racially segregated Homewood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she was an accomplished sprinter, according to a Willie Mays biographer Jim Hirsch. She earned a degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's degree in social work from Howard University.
She worked in child welfare and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, became a "pioneer in getting single adoptions started in San Francisco."
She met Willie Mays in New York and they were married in November 1971. Author Hirsch, who dedicated his biography of Willie Mays to Mae, said her "grace and beauty touched the soul of a legend."
During her 16-year battle with Alzheimer's disease, she remained at their Atherton home.
Mays family attorney Malcolm Heinicke said in a statement: "Mae died peacefully and without pain. Willie is now grieving the loss of his beautiful wife of more than four decades, but he is staying strong by remembering all of the many experiences they enjoyed together. Mae was a beautiful person, and although her illness took some of her memories late in life, Mae passed with full knowledge that Willie loved her dearly. Willie appreciates all of the well wishes of his friends and fans during this difficult time."
Larry Baer, Giants president and chief executive officer, said: "On behalf of the Giants partnership, front office, team, alumni and fans, we express our heartfelt condolences to Willie and his family with the passing of his beloved Mae. I was honored to know Mae and to witness how Willie loved and cared for her."
A private funeral service will be scheduled in the near future. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the Say Hey Foundation Inc., P.O. Box #2410, Menlo Park, CA 94026.