Rick May, a voice actor best known to PC gamers for his portrayal of the gruff-talking Soldier in Team Fortress 2, has died after contracting COVID-19. His death was reported by the Rekindle School, an independent art, acting, and film school in Seattle, Washington where May was a teacher.
May's game credits, along with Team Fortress 2, include Star Fox 64, Freddi Fish 5, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, and Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition. He also served as the artistic director of the Renton Civic Theater and Civic Light Opera, and directed or appeared in over 300 shows including Fiddler on the Roof, Death of a Salesman, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Odd Couple, and Cotton Patch Gospel.
"I met him over thirty years ago and while we weren’t the socializing type of pals we always enjoyed running into each other at a gig or audition. Every recording session with him was always laugh-filled. Yet when the lights went down or the engineer said, 'rolling' he was the consummate professional. He worked hard to get it right and we could always depend on him to deliver," John Patrick Lowrie, the voice actor of the Team Fortress 2 Sniper, wrote in a eulogy on Facebook.
"I knew the man who along with Frank Buxton and David Selvig stood and applauded my daughter Andee when I introduced her to the audience at the Kirkland Performance Center for what would be her first appearance as a professional actor. I knew the man who was always encouraging when I had my bout with cancer. I knew the man whose passing leaves a huge hole in my heart and I believe so many others."
Like all of Team Fortress 2's archetypal playable classes, the Soldier became a well-rounded character over the course of hundreds of updates and surprisingly expansive lore. By 2011, one of TF2's digital comics was exploring the roommate relationship between the Soldier and Merasmus, a magician and boss character that players fought in the fourth Scream Fortress seasonal event. The 2009 "WAR!" Update pitted the Soldier against the Demoman in a week-long contest, soliciting fan art submissions as part of a "Propaganda Contest" that produced some memorable illustrations shown below.
The Rekindle School obituary says May suffered a stroke in February, and was in a nursing home for rehabilitation when he contracted COVID-19. He was moved to Seattle's Swedish hospital for treatment, but died as a result of the disease. He was 79.
Fans of May's work have been sharing tributes on Twitter:
Rick May dies at age 79 due to coronavirusHe was best known as the voice of Peppy in 'Star Fox 64' with his iconic 'Do a barrel roll' line(via Rekindle School | https://t.co/d1G5wsNuTn) pic.twitter.com/kkjacwSd7gApril 13, 2020
Rick May, the voice of soldier has passed away today. He has never failed with making me laugh with his voicelines, and the delivery with them. I hope he lived a great life, and I hope he passed away peacefully.God speed you magnificent bastard. pic.twitter.com/OjLJ8bqKg5April 13, 2020
If fighting is sure to result in victory then you must fight!Rick May said that. And I'd say he knew a little more about soldier than you do pal because he invented it!And then he perfected it so no man could best him in the ring of honor.Rest in PeaceApril 13, 2020
Rick May, the voice of Peppy and Andross in StarFox 64, has passed away from coronavirus https://t.co/Rf4EmkmjjR pic.twitter.com/CMXROaJtoOApril 13, 2020
We are saddened to hear about the passing Rick May, famous for his roles as Peppy Hare in Starfox, Dr. M from Sly 3, and dearest to us here at teamfortresstv, the Soldier in TF2.RIP, Rick May. 1940 - 2020. "You were good son, real good; maybe even the best."April 13, 2020
I’ve just been informed of the passing of the awesome Rick May. He was a real great voice actor and a really awesome guy. Rest In Peace pal, “You were good son, real good. Maybe even the best.” pic.twitter.com/F9cP9DVgHwApril 13, 2020
An entire server paying respects to Rick May. pic.twitter.com/rFy5xmLUlgApril 13, 2020