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Life Story / Obituary
Passionate, persevering, and pragmatic, Cynthia Mary Stech lived a life rich in family and service to others. With unwavering passion and determination, Cynthia lived by example; she firmly believed actions spoke more powerfully than words and consistently chose to behave in ways that reflected her principles and hopes for the world. Cynthia freely shared her love and support as well as her talents and time in so doing, she showed us how to live a wholehearted and joyful life. Cherished by many, Cynthia will long live in the hearts and lives of those she loved.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1935 gave birth to many celebrated firsts. While reeling in the heartache of Black Sunday, our nation’s 20.1% unemployment rate and the gathering war clouds as Germany passed the Nuremberg laws, Americans found much hope in Amelia Earhart’s’ first solo Pacific flight, the inventions of parking meters, fluorescent tubes for light, and the game of Monopoly, as well as the first Orange Bowl, first Pacific Airmail delivery, and the first Technicolor film; Mickey Mouse. In Columbus, Ohio Samuel & Cynthia Mary “Minky” Reed held much hope for the future as they celebrated the birth of their daughter Cynthia on August 23rd.
Born during a time of struggle, which was compounded by the death of her father when she was ten, Cynthia learned from an early age the importance of frugality, hard work, self-reliance, and concern for others. Suddenly widowed and a single parent of two young children, Cynthia’s mother moved her family into a little apartment in Columbus and began to rebuild their lives. In time she married again and the family moved into a home in Bexley, Ohio.
Cynthia was a proud big sister to her brother William and her unflinching no-nonsense pragmatism was evident from an early age. While playing in the backyard she overheard two neighbor women talking at the fence about President Roosevelt’s death. Later in the day when her mother heard the news on the radio, Cynthia announced that she already knew that. When her mother asked why she hadn’t told her the news, Cynthia unhesitatingly declared, “Well, you didn’t vote for him.”
Having grown up in a time of economic depression, blackout drills, and her own family’s losses and struggles, Cynthia understood the importance of being able to provide for herself and her loved ones. Additionally, a firm resolve to help others became the foundation upon which she built the rest of her life. Encouraged by Minky and her grandmother Glady, Cynthia was determined to create a secure future for herself. After graduating from high school Cynthia attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she earned a bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology.
As was common during that era, Cynthia married right after finishing college and soon welcomed her first child, Hilary, into her heart and home. When Hilary was just two months old, the young family moved to across the country to Denver where she soon welcomed two more children, Lisa and William. The busy household was blessed with the addition of Preston in 1969, making the family complete. While Cynthia was the family disciplinarian, she also loved her children unconditionally. Cynthia was the glue that held her family together and showed by example the importance of being able to turn to one another in good times and bad. When they lived in Colorado Cynthia and the kids often traveled across the country to visit family in Columbus, Ohio. During one particularly tight connection in Chicago, as they prepared to detrain, she told the children: “Hang on to your stuff. If you drop something don’t stop and pick it up because I will leave you behind.” The kids were so scared they kept moving and made the connection in plenty of time. While Preston was not around for some of those early adventures, he had ample opportunity to travel and make memories of his own with Cynthia, along with her friend and travel buddy Evelyn and her two sons.
As a result of her own experiences, Cynthia felt it was important for her girls to be strong and her sons to appreciate and support strong women. She helped her children discover their passions, always encouraging them to avoid finding themselves in a position where they couldn’t take care of themselves. With signature style, Cynthia didn’t just encourage these principles with her words; she became an advocate and role model for young women during the early years of feminism.
Determined to make her children independent, Cynthia taught all of her kids to do their own laundry when they were in junior high. She also bought cookbooks for the boys when they went to college and made sure that all of her children knew the important skill of shuffling cards. Bill was the only guy on campus who knew how to separate clothes properly and proudly wore his white undershirts when his roommates turned theirs pink!
Cynthia had a flair for the dramatic and was a passionate supporter of the arts. While in Denver Cynthia was in a mixed race theatre that brought the unfairness and hurt of racism front and center and opened a dialogue towards understanding. This was at the start of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Upon arriving in West Michigan in the early 1970s she continued her commitment to social justice by working with the Mad Hatters, a performance troupe founded to help dispel myths about persons with handicaps. She also sought out opportunities to participate in local community theater. Over the years she appeared in numerous productions at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, where she was also a long-time volunteer. Her impressive list of Civic credits includes her favorite role of Aida in Over the River and Through the Woods, plus memorable performances in Our Town, Over the Tavern, On Golden Pond, Twelfth Night and Getting Out. Her most recent performance was in The Good Doctor in April 2018.
Not only did Cynthia’s passion lead her to wonderful theatrical moments, but it also fueled other adventures. She loved to travel the world and took many trips with her life partner Fred and her best friend and travel buddy Evelyn. Cynthia was also a voracious reader and an avid, lifelong bridge player. Cynthia instilled her love of the arts in her children and grandchildren, several of whom are talented performers and artists. She was also a proud patron of their performances and exhibitions.
Cynthia unflinchingly stood for what she believed in and unhesitatingly volunteered her efforts. She served on many boards, was a natural proofreader, and served as the bookkeeper for many organizations over the years. Cynthia worked at Family & Children Services for over 20 years where she started as a bookkeeper and eventually grew her responsibilities to become office manager.
Without a doubt, Cynthia’s greatest joy was her family. She felt proud of her children and celebrated their successes. Seeing her legacy reflected in the lives of her children and grandchildren afforded Cynthia a deep sense of contentment. Nothing made her happier than to see her children enjoy spending time together.
During her final months Cynthia never let her illness stop her from doing the things she loved. Her strength and courage were an inspiration to all who knew her. She performed at the Carver Center 6 weeks before her death and played her final round of bridge less than two weeks ago. We all take comfort in knowing that each of us carries Cynthia’s bright spirit in our hearts. Each moment that we confidently stand for our truths, talents we share, and time together we treasure, we stoke the flame of Cynthia’s bright legacy and ensure that it continues to warm and inspire others.
On Monday, June 4, 2018, Cynthia Mary Reed Stech, aged 82, passed away peacefully in the comfort of her home in Kalamazoo. She is survived by her brother, William (Bev) Reed; two daughters: Hilary (Paul) Knight and Lisa (Tom O’Brien) Stech; two sons: William (Margaret) Stech and Preston (Anastasia) Stech; long-time partner, Fred Tremblay and his children: David (Melissa), Tommy, Freddie (Melissa), Patty, and Mike (Christy); five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; as well as many “honorary” Tremblay grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at 11 AM on Friday (June 8) at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (375-2900), visitation will begin an hour prior to the service. A reception will follow, where friends and family can visit while sharing food and drinks in the Life Story Center. Please visit Cynthia’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Cynthia’s memory to the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, 329 S. Park St., Kalamazoo MI, 49007.