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Ex-Pandora chief dies at 100

May Gruber, who took over and ran Pandora Industries during an era when few women were corporate leaders, died Monday, two days short of her 101st birthday.

In addition to running the multimillion-dollar Pandora for nearly 20 years, Gruber was known throughout the Manchester community for philanthropic efforts and support of the arts.

“She liked being involved,” son Ralph Sidore said. “She liked doing things and she liked doing big things.”

Gruber and her second husband, Sam Gruber, founded the Manchester Community Music School and donated art to the Currier Museum, which featured some of their collection in an exhibit.

Sidore said his mother was always active, jogging well into her 90s before arthritis slowed her down and limited her to walking. Gruber told the New Hampshire Union Leader just before her 100th birthday last March that she still tried to get a walk in every day.

Sidore said Gruber’s health had been declining in the weeks before her death Monday at her home in Goffstown, but she remained mentally sharp to the end.

Gruber received the Boston Post Cane last spring, one of many honors conferred on her during her lifetime.

She was also a recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award in 2005 and was presented an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame College.

“She was long before her time in terms of an executive, philanthropist and activist,” said state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a family friend. “For her time, she was one of few women who ran a big business.”

Born May Blum in 1912 in New York City, she graduated from New York University at the age of 19. She married Sol Sidore. After returning from their honeymoon, the couple joined her parents in a new business, making and selling sweaters in the early years of the Great Depression.

The family venture persevered despite the economy.They moved the business to New Hampshire in 1940.

Widowed in 1963, Gruber ended up becoming the company’s third president in 1964. She wrote about it in “Pandora’s Pride,” one of two books she authored. She had to buy out the shares owned by her father and brother, raising the money in less than 90 days. She ran the company until she sold it in 1983.

“In many respects for me, it was just Mom doing what Mom does,” Ralph Sidore said. “I understand from a historical perspective. She was not necessarily one of the first, but one of the early women running a business.”

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