On Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, Ninon Schults died because of a series of illnesses and accidents, with an overriding background of that cruel disease, Alzheimer's.
She was a lovely woman who came to represent that classic combination of beauty and brains. However, in the first stages of her battle with Alzheimer's, while playing one of her favorite board games, Scrabble, she would sadly struggle trying to spell three- and four-letter words. The reason, of course, was not ignorance, but memory loss, which by the end of her life was virtually complete.
Ninon was born to George and Ruth King Jan. 6, 1926, at Medford, Ore. She spent her pre-college school days in Ashland, Ore. In 1935, when Angus Bowmer began his now-famous Shakespeare Festival, Ninon's mother saw to it that her daughter was introduced to what would become one of the passions of her life, the plays of the Bard. As she grew older, she was selected to join the Shakespeare Company for several years. Later, she moved to Spokane and made annual trips back to Ashland to continue to enjoy not only the plays of Shakespeare but also the ever-expanding list of offerings of other playwrights, old and new.
In 1943, Ninon matriculated at the University of Oregon where she achieved a brilliant academic record, capped by selection to Phi Beta Kappa, as well as the "Oregon Six" - the six top students in the senior class. While at Oregon she met the man who would become her husband, Carl Maxey. After Ninon's graduation, the couple moved to Spokane, where they got married and Carl enrolled at Gonzaga's law school. Carl graduated from Gonzaga in 1971, and after passing the bar exams, became the first black lawyer to set up practice in Spokane. He became one of the most successful and famous lawyers, not only in Spokane but throughout Washington, not only as a lawyer but also as a leader in the state's civil rights movement.
Meanwhile Ninon, in the early years of their marriage, did what so many post-World War II brides did - she helped their financial situation by holding down a job as a social worker.
The Maxeys had two sons, Bill, who was born in 1949 and Bevan, born in 1957. Like their father, both of the boys were athletes, and both followed in his footsteps. After graduating from Gonzaga, both became mainstays in today's Maxey Law Office in Spokane.
Meanwhile, Ninon and Carl began to develop differences, and drifted apart. Finally, the situation became too serious for their marriage to survive, and in 1971 they were divorced. Before this, Ninon decided to return to college and work for a post-graduate degree. She enrolled at Eastern Washington University and earned a master's degree in history. While at EWU, she met Ray Schults, who was on the faculty. The two developed a friendship, which ripened into love. They married in 1973, thus beginning a union of love and laughter that even survived the grim attack of Alzheimer's. Friends used to rib them about staying on their honeymoon for decades. During Ninon's last year of forgetfulness, there were occasions when she did not know who anyone was, including Ray. However, during the last time she was able to communicate at all, she told him that she loved him.
During most of the first 15 years of their marriage, they lived in a trailer on Moran Prairie, about 15 miles from Spokane, which was part of a quarter-section of wheat field with houses few and far apart. This is where they soon realized that they preferred rural to urban living. They liked the spectacular view westward, the quail, the pheasants, the deer, and even the coyotes, although their cats did not share the latter opinion.