NIKKI (KLAYMAN) DESCOTEAUX WIFE | MOTHER | TEACHER | SOCIAL ACTIVIST “Be a voice, not an echo.” Through her unmatched strength and resilience, Nikki courageously battled pancreatic cancer for nearly 4 years; she passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 27, surrounded by her loving family. Nikki was 75 years of age, formerly of Dover, MA, Mashpee, MA, and Boynton Beach, Fl. She was born on April 6, 1946 to Alfred and Melva Klayman in Syracuse, New York where she was raised. Nikki is predeceased by her parents. She is survived by her loving husband of 53 years, Al Descoteaux, her son Mike, his fiancée Deana Criess and their two children, Madelaine and Jackson, foster daughter Nicole Bumgarner, brother Mike Klayman of San Francisco, sister Jane Klayman of Cloudcroft, New Mexico and niece, Laura Welsh, of Temecula, Ca. Nikki graduated from Nottingham High School in Syracuse where she excelled in her studies, graduating salutatorian of her class. There, she developed her love of French Language, Literature and Culture. A popular student, she had a coterie of many friends with whom she was still close to this day. Nikki went on to the University of Michigan where she received her BA and Masters Degree in French Language and Literature. While working on her Doctorate, she met her husband, Al, who was also pursuing a Doctorate in French Literature. The two put on their best pairs of bellbottoms to marry in 1969, staging a groovy ecumenical service with a potluck reception on the college campus joined by a bevy of professors, colleagues and students. At the U of M, Nikki developed her lifelong dedication to social activism which she relentlessly maintained via Zoom and conference calls even through the years of punishing chemo treatments. Cancer had not met the likes of Nikki Descoteaux. At the University of Michigan she was a leader in the Black Action Movement holding workshops, protests, boycotting classes and marching in the streets of Ann Arbor. In the decades since, she devoted her life to idealism, serving as an articulate advocate for the environment, Women’s rights, and equality for all. In 1970 she moved with her husband to Boston where she took a teaching position at Dana Hall School in the French department. While there she not only taught but also led students on exchange programs to France. She was faculty advisor for the Network of Complementary Schools which conducted exchange programs with other schools throughout the US and Canada. After her years at Dana Hall School, Nikki continued to be an active member and officer of the Network of Complementary Schools for many years to come. In Boston, Nikki volunteered for years in Congressman Barney Frank’s Newton office where she organized and promoted student art programs. She was an active member in Kahal B'raira, a congregation devoted to peace and community through humanistic Judaism. During her “Flori-DUH” years, Nikki was actively engaged in the League of Women Voters both at the local level as well as national. She led many committees, especially those with educational missions. Nikki also participated in Cowbra, a 100,000 member organization of 50+ community residents in Palm Beach county, chairing and co-chairing committees. Nikki was an ardent visual artist, expressing her creativity in many beautiful mosaic and glass works that she gifted lucky friends and family. She knitted beautiful afghans, donating these “comfort in covers” (her own label) to families in homeless shelters. She also loved and tirelessly supported the performing arts. Despite Al and Mike’s frequent needling, she was actually a lovely and lively singer with a penchant for parodies. Another of Nikki’s true passions was the outdoors, traveling with Al to hike trails, beaches, marshes and mountains the world over. An intrepid explorer, she demonstrated amazing organizational skills in planning all their trips, learning new languages, and ensuring a lifetime of adventures for the family. She will forever be remembered for her love and support of family, a multitude of dear friends and her advocacy for those in need. She gave her all to motherhood and being Al’s steadfast partner on their many trips around the globe.
At Nikki’s request, in lieu of a funeral, we will throw a celebration of life party filled with music and joy. The date, time and place will be announced shortly. In lieu of flowers or other kind gifts, Nikki requested that contributions be made to the organizations and charities you feel best honor her inclusive values and life-long commitment to leaving the world a little better than she found it. A few she was particularly fond of include Partners in Health and 1000 Friends of Florida. Nikki’s family would like to thank her medical support team through the years at the Beth Isreal Deaconess Oncology Department, Care Dimensions, and her universe of incredible friends for their dedication and generosity during her courageous 4-year triumph over cancer. May we all carry her spirit with us on our adventures in the days and decades ahead.
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