W.MAY FERGUSON'S mother long ago gave her some sage advice: "Be careful whom you turn away, you may be turning away an angel."

May took that advice to heart, never turning anyone away throughout a long life of helping others on her own and through various organizations.

She even traveled to Africa and brought back young people to stay in her home to be educated and learn job skills.

May Ferguson, who worked as a secretary for the Philadelphia School District for about 20 years, died last Friday. She was 86 and lived in Mount Airy.

"Helping others gave her joy," said her daughter, Diedrelaithe "Dee" Ferguson Gibson. "She was all about caring and giving of yourself. She made a difference in so many lives."

May was also involved in local politics and served as a Democratic committeewoman in the 22nd Ward for 38 years.

It seemed that everywhere May went she found ways to help the needy. In putting together her own life story, May recounted that she began raising money for needy causes at age 10.

She was born in Macon, Ga., to the Rev. Will C. Craft and Seva Craft. Her early education was in the public schools of Georgia and North Carolina. She studied at Fort Valley State University, in Georgia; Forsythe State College, in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and, after arriving in Philadelphia, Temple University, Berean Institute and the Pearl Underwood School of Music.

She lived for a time in New York City, where she became active with the YWCA. She then moved to Atlantic City, where she met her husband, James Alfred Ferguson.

He was in the Army in World War II, and May went overseas to "bring home life to soldiers abroad," as she wrote in her life story.

When they arrived in Philadelphia, she and her husband joined the St. Augustine Church of the Covenant, and, when it closed, Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church, in Mount Airy.

She worked for a time for the former Serve Well Electrical Products Co. in South Philadelphia before going to work for the School District. She retired in the mid-1990s.

May and her husband rarely let an occasion go by where they could get out on the dance floor. She also loved her garden, where she planted lots of roses, her favorite flower.

Her charitable work won her a citation from City Council in 1991.

Among causes to which she lent her services were the annual Hero Thrill Show, Stephen Smith Home, the Association for the Blind and Heritage House.

She was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, founded by Marcus Garvey, and accompanied his remains to his burial site in Jamaica in 1964.

She was a founding member of the United Friends of Africa, past president of Opera North (formerly Opera Ebony), charter member of the Urban League and the NAACP, past president of the Negro Business and Professional Women's Club of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and was active with the Eastern Star.

She served on the executive board of the Afro American Historical and Cultural Museum, now the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

May's husband died in 1983. Besides her daughter, she is survived by three godchildren, Cynthia Duff Thomas, Frank Darkar and Yargae Atao.

Services: 11 a.m. Monday at Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church, Ardleigh Street and Gowen Avenue. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Chelten Hills Cemetery.