A gifted writer and editor, Cynthia Emma Overbeck Bix touched the lives of everyone she met with her calming presence, compassionate nature, and quick and clever wit. Good friends were often surprised to learn of her many accomplishments, since she mentioned them infrequently, if ever. “She was the most generous, nonjudgmental friend,” recalls longtime Berkeley friend Ellen Rosenfield.
Cynthia was the author of 35 nonfiction books for children and adults, with subjects ranging from carnivorous plants to a history of American crazes, called Fad Mania!, and Spending Spree: The History of American Shopping. She worked as a developmental editor for several book publishers, including Lerner Publishing Group and C&T Publishing. She penned articles and books about American cultural history, natural science, textile arts and clothing, and home décor and gardens; she published numerous articles in Sunset, Cricket, Cobblestone, and National Geographic Explorer magazines.
Cobblestone editor Meg Chorlian speaks of Cynthia’s contribution of some 15 articles, with subjects ranging from Coney Island to women who were part of the Klondike Gold Rush. “It was such a pleasure to get to know her through her emails and brainstorming ideas for Cobblestone. I loved hearing from her, as she always pitched great ideas, just what the issue was missing. She is among a handful of authors in which I had complete confidence.”
Her personal essays, often offering a lyrical look back at the 1950s, were especially touching, and were published in the East Bay Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, and Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion Magazine. For links to many of these articles, see Cynthia’s website.
Among Cynthia’s unusual accomplishments was winning a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for creating a complete set of Victorian-era doll clothes. In recent years, she volunteered her interviewing and writing talent, working with Berkeley photographer Nancy Rubin for a photo exhibition at the main library on the UC Berkeley campus. Titled “Reframing Aging,” it featured members of Ashby Village, a nonprofit community in Berkeley.
Cynthia Bix was born and spent her childhood years in Baltimore in an especially close family, which then moved to El Cerrito, California, where she began high school. Her mother, Elizabeth, worked alongside her father, Adrian Overbeck, who had a chiropractic office in Richmond. Cynthia received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature at UC Davis, and worked in a bookstore in San Francisco following college. She lived and worked in Berkeley for several years. She moved to Minneapolis in the 1980s, where she met John Bix, a public defender. The couple soon returned to Berkeley, where John opened his mediation law practice and Cynthia worked as a writer and editor while they raised their son, Max.
Francie Gordon talks about her sister-in-law: “When I think about Cynthia, the one word that comes to mind is ‘sweetheart.’ Always positive, always with a smile on her face, always with a kind word.” Francie was moved by Cynthia’s deep love for her parents, Sam and Pearl Bix. “She got a real kick out of dad. She would listen to his stories about golf, the market, or Vegas with amusement and interest. Or, if he got a little grumpy, Cynthia would just smile a bit wider. It was a special relationship. And when it came to Pearl, they truly loved each other. Mom was so proud of Cynthia’s magazines and articles, which were always on display on the living room coffee table. She and Cynthia spoke all the time, sharing many of the same interests. It, too, was a very special relationship.”
Beloved by many, Cynthia was a member of a group of 18 college friends who met in the Struve-Titus dorm at UC Davis in 1964 and have remained close over the years.
She lived valiantly with cancer for seven years. Cynthia is survived by her husband, John, their son, Max, and grandchildren, and by her sister, Deborah Siepmann, and nephews, Peter and Nick.
A memorial gathering was held at the Women’s Faculty Club at UC Berkeley on June 28, 2022. Donations may be made to East Bay Hospice in Cynthia Bix’s name.