Edith Maxant – beloved cousin

July 30, 2008 Kyron 4 Comments

I grew up blessed to have a fairly extensive family network. As with any family some were closer than other for a variety of reasons usually having to do with geography. One of my fonder early memories was visiting cousins in Ayer, Massachusetts – especially Cousin Edith. I was pretty young, I kind of knew something was “different” but I couldn’t put my finger on it and to be honest – she was fun….I just didn’t care! She always was happy and always interested in what *I* had to say or show off. I was always incredibly impressed that I had an olympic athelete in the family – one who had medaled in swimming no less! I thought she was amazingly cool! It was only years later that I understood that Edith was different because she had “Down Syndrome” and that the olympics she had competed in was Special Olympics. It didn’t make Edith any less cool however – in some ways it was more cool that despite any disability she lived this totally cool life and had such success and accomplishment.

Today, I received a note from Edith’s sister Ruth telling me that Edith had passed. I haven’t seen Edith or Ruth in years but I remember visits there with such fondness and joy that I wanted to share the wonderful eulogy that Ruth has written which made me even more happy to be able to say she touched my life and happier to know my Aunt Harriet and Uncle Richard were such groundbreakers – which I guess I should have known but in my family the fact that Edith stayed at home just never seemed anything other than normal to me. I like to think that this early exposure to Edith and my families treatment and incorporation of Edith into our lives gave me a better ability to make the decisions I have about Katherine. For this and so many other things I can’t begin to enumerate I am so grateful to Edith, for letting me just love her for her, to Aunt Harriet for having worked so hard to make sure that Edith had as “normal” a life as Ruth or Frank and to Ruth and Frank for being caring siblings to continued to care for Edith long after Aunt Harriet and Uncle Richard were gone. I hope to one day speak to you so that I can take lessons from you to help Katherine’s siblings long term.rip3 Edith Maxant   beloved cousin


August 12, 1944  – July 24, 2008

On August 12th 1944, a daughter, Edith Louise Maxant was born to Capt. Richard C. Maxant and Harriett (Henn) Maxant.  After taking her to several specialists, they followed the best advice, “Just take her home and love her.”   So, Edith Maxant became one of the few Down Syndrome babies to grow up at home and one of the even fewer children that became part of the community. Her Mom, Harriett, also became an advocate for children with disabilities. She took Edith to parents of special needs children and encouraged them to let their children live at home and be active in the community.

Edith had all the opportunities to do everything a “normal” child could do. She took swimming lessons at Sandy Pond and eventually overcame her fear of deep water and would swim across the pond and back!  Edith took ballet, tap and baton twirling lessons from Mrs. Desmond, participating in the recitals and never missing a step.

Edith was upset that her younger sibling got to go to school because it was “My Turn!” after her older sibling started school. Ayer had no special needs classes, so her Mother found Rollstone School in Fitchburg and drove her over every morning and picked her up every afternoon. The teachers at Rollstone School all loved Edith. She organized the kids on the playground and taught them how to swing a jump rope, how to play hopscotch and other games which she had played at home with her friends and siblings.  Harriett soon discovered Edith could take the train to Fitchburg every morning. The conductors all watched out for her and loved her cheerful personality. A taxi picked her up at the train station and took her to school and Harriett picked her up in the afternoon.  When Ayer started its special education classes at Page-Hilltop, Edith was one of the first students.

Edith had an infectious personality and a beautiful smile.  She always loved everyone, she seldom forgot a name or face. She did not take offense when people shied away from her, but tried to win them over with her gracious comments and sweet personality. Even as a child she did not let unkind remarks faze her. She would say, “It’s OK, they don’t know better.”

As programs for the handicapped grew, Edith grew right along with them.  She loved to jitterbug and wanted to attend every single sock hop put on by the Association of Retarded Citizens. (ARC)  She also loved to bowl and her Mom would take her every week to bowling at Mason’s bowling alley in Fitchburg.  Edith participated in the Special Olympics and won medals in both bowling and swimming. She would walk downtown Ayer to show her medals to everyone.

Edith was a member of the Federated Church and attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She had perfect attendance medals for almost every year. Edith learned how to read and write and was never as happy as when reading her Bible. She often attended the services at other churches when people were willing to give her rides.

Everyone who knew Edith was touched by her life. She taught people how normal it is to love and interact with others regardless of handicaps. Edith stayed young, and as her playmates outgrew playing with her, she took to riding her bike and walking around town. People in Ayer grew accustomed to seeing her and would often offer her a ride home.  People learned that Edith was just…Edith…and they accepted her for herself; a loving, kind, gracious person who would not forget you and who would always try to help others

Donations can be made to: the ARC, (Fitchburg); the Special Olympics; or the Gideons.

Edith leaves behind: her brother, Frank Maxant, and her sister, Ruth Maxant-Schulz, both of Ayer; niece, Diana Simon of Bethesda MD and her two boys, Jeremy and Gabriel; niece, Christina Andres of McKinney Tx;, her daughter, Payten; niece,  Amanda Schulz of Ayer; nephews, Curtis Schulz of Ayer, and David Schulz of Columbus Ohio; and many cousins.

God Bless and God Rest Edith.

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Categories : General

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Stacey says:

    What a lovely remembrance of Edith!
    It sounds as though she will be missed greatly–
    What a great Angel-in-Training (Edith)God will have by his side!

  2. Terri says:

    This is beautiful.

  3. Jill says:

    Hello..I happen to stumble across this site and like the others I found what you wrote to be beautiful as well. I am actually a family member of yours. I am one of Arthur Maxant’s granddaughters. I met My Aunt Harriett and Edith once when I was ten. When meeting Edith for the first time she instantly smiled and gave me such a warm and loving hug. Then she took my hand and we washed dishes together while Aunt Harriett dried them. My computer is outdated and I can’t seem to see your name. Feel free to e’mail me if you’d like~

  4. Gary Bebout says:

    As a child I spent many afternoons at the Maxants, and with Edith. What a wonderful education it was for me to have Edith and The Maxants as neighbors. I remember learning to ride a bicycle on Eddies bike. Mrs. Maxant would only let Edith and I make the Christmas sugar cookies, I remember Mrs. Maxant inspiring me to want to type. She’d let me use the library in their house to do my book reports. Mrs. Maxant also gave me books. She trusted me to do a lot that the other kids couldn’t. Have a million memories of that time and I cherish them — from rabbits to raspberries to horses. I feel nothing but love for Edith and her Mom. I can see them like it was yesterday.

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