Niki Scott, long-time resident of Mt. Desert Island, died suddenly at her home on April 26, 2012. She was 68.
Niki was born Dec. 31, 1943 in New York City. Her mother was one of the first female radio commentators and broadcast from WOR for 32 years under the name Martha Deane. Before that she was an award-winning journalist for the NEA news syndicate, a career that served as a model for her daughter. Her father was an advertising executive.
In her working years she was an award-winning reporter for the Charlotte, N.C. News, and, later, wrote "Working Woman" a syndicated column, for 22 years. She is the author of two books, "Working Woman" and "the Balancing Act", which addressed the concerns of working women, especially working mothers. She was also a contributing editor to McCall's magazine.
As a child Niki lived in Manhattan and Shelter Island, New York and Sarasota, Fla., and was educated at the Shelter Island elementary school; the Outdoor School in Sarasota; Rosemary Hall, Greenwich, Ct.; the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York; the Oak Grove School in Vassalboro Me.; and La Chatelainie in Gstadd, Switzerland. "I don't know why, but these schools didn't invite me back for the next semester," she said. She graduated from high school after a year in the Lennox School in New York, then attended Washington College in Chestertown, Md. and Columbia University in New York, but left before earning her degree to raise her sons.
Moving to Park Forest, IL. she began her journalism career with a part-time job on a suburban weekly while teaching nursery school. The job soon became full-time and she covered the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, where she was gassed, roughed up and detained overnight by the Chicago constabulary.
When she moved to Charlotte, N.C. in 1971 she found a job on the staff of the Charlotte News and quickly graduated from the obituaries, community events and feature pages to covering courts and the police. During a civil disturbance created by the forced bussing issue Niki and her photographer escaped serious injury when their car was overturned by rioters. She also covered the appearance of musicians ranging from Pat Boone to Elvis Presley. Her coverage of an airliner crash at Charlotte won her the state journalism association's top prize for hard news reporting, the first of several she was awarded in North Carolina.
Leaving the Charlotte News, Niki began a free-lance career and placed articles in a number of national and regional publications before signing a 10-year contract with Universal Press Syndicate to write two 700-word columns a week, a commitment she kept for 22 years when ill health forced her to retire.
In 1976 Niki and her then-husband Chuck Henderson, happened upon Mt. Desert Island on their way to Nova Scotia, and seeking a less urbanized environment in which to raise her sons, she moved to Southwest Harbor in time to start the school year.
In the 1980s, she and her close friend Molly Lyman built a public speaking business, in which Niki travelled around the United States making inspirational speeches to audiences ranging from a few dozen to several thousand. She developed her knack for talking to crowds as she went along, using humor and her ability to create an atmosphere of shared experience with the mostly female members of her audiences. Her speaking took her from Bangor to Honolulu, from Portland to Pensacola, and all over the middle of the country from Illinois to Texas. She received a number of return invitations to speak in Rockford, Il, Tulsa, Okla. and Amarillo Texas. One of her toughest audiences was a gathering of Army wives of the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg, N.C., which gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of her talk. Another was a convention of female state employees in Bellingham, Wash., who she addressed over breakfast as the ladies were recovering from a night of revelry. According to one witness, she left them laughing and reaching for another round of Alka-Seltzer.
Niki was a survivor of several close calls in her seven decades on earth. In the winter of 1977 she and a friend were swept by a storm wave into the ocean near Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. Only the quick and heroic action of Chuck Henderson saved the lives of the two women. While travelling on business, she escaped a high-rise hotel fire in Tulsa, Okla., and she was confronted at night by a knife-wielding man in a parking lot at the Detroit airport. She escaped unharmed by keeping calm and using her considerable powers of persuasion to convince him to release her.
Her narrowest escape occurred in 1959 when she missed the recall signal of a cruise ship and was stranded in Dakar, Senegal in West Africa. Just fifteen at the time, she made her way by using her American passport and what money she had. She travelled alone to Lisbon, Portugal by way of Casablanca, Cairo, Istanbul, Rome and Monaco, where she was reunited with her family. She attributed her safe passage to the "kindness of strangers" and the fact that the world was far friendlier toward Americans then than it is now. She was so frightened at the time, she recalled, that few of the details of this adventure remained in her memory, although her passport attests to her odyssey. She liked to remember the moonlight night she evaded the custodians of the Acropolis in Athens and slept in the little temple of Niki, the Greek goddess of victory.
She was also a breast cancer survivor and used her column and personal contacts to encourage women to have frequent breast exams. "Early diagnosis saved me," she often said.
In her later years she liked to entertain at little dinner parties and talk late into the night, but most of all she loved to be with her family and a few close friends. This close contact sustained her spirits as her health and ability to get around declined. Throughout her life, which was troubled by chronic back pain, she maintained a keen sense of humor, a lively interest in other people and an optimism which rose never failed. Remembering her, people recalled her sparkling personality, her remarkable insight into the issues of her time, her generosity and her way of making everyone she talked with feel close to her, but mostly they recalled her laughter, which was frequent, hearty and always sincere.
She is survived by her husband of 25 years, Joseph N. Valliant, and sons Robert Scott of Orland and John Scott of West Gardiner, and by her grandchildren Jackson Scott, of Santa Barbara, Calif. and twins Tarynne and Connor Scott of Topsham, Me. She is also survived by her twin William B. Taylor, Jr. of Woodstock, Ct., and stepdaughter Anne Valliant Burgess of Chatsworth, Ca.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, May 4, 2012 at the Tremont Congregational Church.
No flowers please. Donations may be made in Niki's memory to the Tremont Congregational Church, PO Box 6, Bernard, ME 04612 the Hancock County SPCA, 141 Bar Harbor Road, Trenton, ME 04605 and the Beth C. Wright Cancer Center. PO Box 322, Ellsworth, ME 04605.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mt. Desert.
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