May Tillman and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab go hand in hand.

"May was the model for all of us in terms of willing and capable of doing almost anything," former director George Crozier shared.

Tillman's role at the Sea Lab, like so many others, evolved over nearly three decades. But no matter what she was doing, those who remember Tillman say she always had a hand in making sure the cafeteria was in order.

In Tillman's honor, the newly remodeled cafeteria at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is named May's Cafe.

"She created a tradition of home for the students that were here, because it was home," Crozier said during the dedication of May's Cafe on Friday, Feb. 26.
"There was nothing else to do on dauphin Island back then."

Tillman retired from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in 1992. Her final mission was to put together that cookbook.

"One morning I realized I had been associated marine science in the State of Alabama for 30 years (and probably had seniority)," Tillman wrote in her cookbook's introduction. "I had started in Bayou La Batre, moved to Dauphin Island, back to the Bayou, and returned to the island. I had started in an office, gone to the kitchen, returned to the office and ended in the kitchen.

"There were so many things I wanted to do, compile this book for one, and could never find time. Recipes were at home, at work, stuffed in cabinets, in drawers, and in books. It seemed I had raised an army of children and now I needed time to spoil my own grandchildren."

May Tillman's cookbook, Tribute to the Great Cooks of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, was published in 1992.

May Tillman passed away on Jan. 16, 2015.