By Laurie Stone: PNT Correspondent
Maybelle Shults was a woman of congeniality and grace in her younger days. She enjoyed serving others and coordinating parties for her family and friends. In her late 60’s, Shults developed Alzheimer’s, which brought a domino effect of change to her life and to those who loved her.
Maybelle Shults died Feb. 26, 2005 at the age of 96.
“What I like to remember about her is when I became her friend and not just her daughter,” said Elaine Erwin, Shults’ daughter. “When I was around 17 years old and my husband was overseas, I lived with her until he came home. We would go to the drugstore and have a Coke together,” she said. “My mother loved being a part of the Order of the Eastern Stars, she was a marshal, and getting dressed up in her long gowns and hosting the Methodist women’s group,” Elaine said. “She was very charming then.”
Shults was born on Dec. 28, 1908, in Greenback, Tenn., to Rosa and W.E. Mills.
Her parents and two brothers homesteaded in Ranchvale in 1909. She married Clyde A. Shults, in 1924. They had three children together and were married for 67 years before he died. She moved to Portales in 1960. When her husband retired from teaching in Floyd, he became a Methodist minister. She played piano in the church.
According to Elaine, her mother and father had a unique balance. She described her mother as having a pessimistic attitude where as her father was more the optimist.
“Mother would always say that if you expected the worst then you would never be disappointed,” she said. “She was a pacifist, but she also had an inner strength that became a pillar to many people when something bad would happen.”
Roland Erwin, Shults’ son-in-law said that Shults was a typical person that affected each family member differently.
“She had a funny laugh and was a good cook,” said Roland. “I enjoyed a lot of good eating at her house.”
Over the years, Shults began to develop Alzheimer’s and deterioration of the retina. During this time, family members said that Shults began to lose her zeal for life.
“She no longer saw a new day as being happy,” Elaine said. “She saw it as being dark. I’m sure it was due to her being unable to crochet and read the music to play her piano which she loved.”
Shults’ daughter and son-in-law took care of her, in their home, when she became unable to take care of herself due to the Alzheimer’s.
Elaine said that experiencing a loved one with Alzheimer’s has been very difficult for she and her family, but it has given her a deep understanding of what a caregiver is and what they must encounter through the process of caring for others.
“Prayer and walking in God’s presence on a daily basis is what has brought us through this,” Elaine said. “Having dealt with my mother and this disease has left me with some regrets.
“When you lose someone slowly to a disease, you grieve differently because you have lost someone you love — but not really, because they’re still living. I grieve because I do not remember what the good times were because of going through such a long period of the bad.”
As the years go by, Elaine is confident that the good memories will be what she remembers the most.
“I want to get back in touch with the mother I once knew and I know that over time, it will come back to me.”
Name: Maybelle Shults
Born: Dec. 28, 1908
Died: Feb. 26, 2005
Preceded in death by: Her parents; three brothers, Charles L., William Leslie and Vernon R. Mills; two sisters, Edith Norris and Lucille Lancaster; two sons, Edwin Leon and Don Edward Shults; and by her husband, Clyde A. Shults.
Survived by: A daughter, Elaine Erwin (and husband, Roland) of Portales; eight grandchildren, Preston and Austin Lenard, both of Portales, Deanna Lenard of Mesa, Ariz., Leticia Johnston of Albuquerque, Michael Erwin of Fort Worth, Texas, Teri Carrell and Dina Bajinski, both of Alamogordo, and Brenda Stolte of Arlington, Texas; 18 great-grandchildren; 12 great-great-grandchildren; and a sister, Vivian Webb of Portales.