Barbara House Knox

Knox, Barbara

July 4, 1924 – Dec. 9, 2013

Barbara Knox, a vigorous participant in the Davis community for more than half a century, died at home on Dec. 9, 2013. She was 89.
Her friends will miss her willingness to hop on a bike for a visit, discuss and engage on all topics, and laugh till tears ran down her cheeks. She let her four children run barefoot, track in “good, clean dirt” and hatch thousands of praying mantises in their bedrooms.
Barbara strongly believed that people could work together to improve community life. She was a founding member of the Davis Food Co-op in the early 1970s, when it moved from members’ garages to a storefront. She helped organize and sustain the Unitarian Universalist fellowship — and then church — of Davis.

She was a loyal volunteer for the Davis Democratic Party and a stalwart of International House, Davis, helping with Wednesday “connections” and hosting English conversation groups in her home. She swam with Davis Aquatic Masters into her 80s. Her energy was boundless.
Barbara was born in the San Fernando Valley town of Owensmouth (later, Canoga Park), descended from settlers who crossed the prairie in covered wagons. She was shaped by the natural beauty of California; by high school teachers who fought, during the Depression, for the rights of immigrants and workers; by grandparents and cousins within walking distance; and by being the only child of a small businessman with a strong sense of volunteerism and community service.

While Barbara decided young that her parents’ religion, Christian Science, wasn’t for her, its teachings left behind an openness to alternative ways of thinking about health.
As an undergraduate, Barbara studied at Occidental College and the University of California, Berkeley, and returned home able to talk her parents out of being Republicans. During the Second World War, as a high school teacher in Canoga Park, she was investigated by a group associated with the California Un-American Activities Committee, attracted by her mock debates and discussions of such topics as the internment of Japanese-Americans. As a graduate student in political science at Berkeley, she lived in its International House, where she made lifelong friends from all over the world and met her husband, William J. (Bill) Knox, from Pomona.
They married in 1948 in Southampton, England, where Barbara was studying unions and the Labour Party. Bill’s career as a physicist took them to Yale, to Washington, D.C., and ultimately to UC Davis.
Davis was a farming town of 8,000 people when Barbara and Bill arrived in 1960; they were glad to be back in their native state, in a thriving community with a fast-growing university.
While moving across the country, they also bought a cabin at Echo Lake, at the summit of Highway 50, which they’d come to know with college friends. Echo’s importance to Barbara and the family as a place to live off the grid and far from roads — hiking, swimming, fishing, chopping wood, experimenting with solar power, and making music and theater — would be difficult to exaggerate.
Barbara was an exuberant baker and cook, expanding her culinary repertoire during sabbaticals in England, France and Italy. She read broadly and passionately: biographies, novels, psychology and progressive periodicals.
She is survived by her four children, William, Margaret, Sarah and Reggie, their spouses, and seven grandchildren, Alan, Paul, Adele, Rosa, Isaac, Tomás and Genevieve. A celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, April 19, at 2 p.m., at I-House, 10 College Park in Davis.

Special to The Enterprise

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