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Santa Monica Loses Two of Its Own

By Teresa Rochester

Sept. 13 -- Two of Celeste Olivera's friends will not be coming home.

Dora Menchaca, 45, and Carolyn Beug, 48, were on board two of Tuesday's doomed airliners.

"First it was Dora and then Carolyn," Olivera said. "It was too much."

Both women gave of themselves. A medical researcher, Menchaca worked tirelessly to develop drugs to combat diseases, including cancer. Beug, a filmmaker and writer, devoted herself to Santa Moinica High School's track team.

Menchaca was on American Airlines Flight 77, which flew out of Dulles International Airport in Washington and crashed into the Pentagon. Beug was on American Airlines Flight 11, the plane that slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m.

On Thursday, Olivera fielded calls at the Sunset Park home Menchaca shared with her husband, Earl Dorsey, 18-year-old daughter Imani and 4-year-old son Jaryd.

"She was incredibly generous," Olivera said. "Generous is a very good description of Dora. She lived life large."

The women became friends a decade ago when their daughters played club soccer. Both girls attended Santa Monica High School. Like her daughter, who now plays on the University of Portland team, Menchaca loved the sport. She tried to convince Olivera to join her when she walked in two Los Angeles Marathons.

"I said no way," Olivera said.

She described her friend as an avid bargain hunter who loved crafts, sewing and nurtured a beautiful garden that burst with colorful flowers and fruit trees.

Menchaca equally loved her work in clinical development that created new medicines at Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks. She led a team working on a new drug to treat prostate cancer. She was in Washington this week to brief officials with the Food and Drug Administration on the team's work.

"The medical community truly lost someone who cared about patient welfare," Amgen spokesman Jeff Richardson said of Menchaca, who was so dedicated to saving lives she bugged the men in her office to get tested for the disease.

"She was incredibly free with information, knowledge and her time," colleague and friend Mary Ann Foote said before slipping into the present tense. "Dora is a very, very giving person."

Foote doesn't doubt that Menchaca was helping other passengers when hijackers were herding them and the crew to the back of the plane before slamming it into the Pentagon.

"I'm sure Dora reached out and grabbed somebody's hand or two," Foote said. "Not because she was scared but because she wanted to comfort. I'm sure to the very end she was helping."

From Menchaca's home, Olivera remembered Carolyn Beug as an avid booster of Santa Monica High School's track and cross country teams. Olivera's daughter ran track with Beug's twins Lauren and Lindsey Mayer-Beug, who graduated this June. Beug also is survived by a 13-year-old son, Nicky.

"Whatever she could do for the team, whatever the team needed, she did it," Olivera said.

Beug was traveling with her mother Mary Wahlstrom from Boston to Los Angeles after a week of helping the twins settle into college at the Rhode Island School of Design, when the American Airlines Flight 11 they were on flew into the World Trade Center's north tower.

Pat Cady, Samohi's head track coach and head women's cross country coach, heard the news of his best friend's death from students. "The kids were so kind," he said.

In the high school's track world, Beug was known as Mamma Bunny. She attended every one of her daughter's track meets, often armed with bagels, cream cheese and bananas. The girls, who set school records, were Bunny One and Bunny Two.

"I haven't felt this bad in 20 years, not since my sister died," said Cady, his voice heavy with sadness "She was such an advocate of her children. She was a wonderful mother. We both loved those girls."

Beug hosted every annual track banquet but one at her home in the City's North of Montana neighborhood and insisted on catering them, while refusing to let the young athletes help cover the costs.

When her daughters were freshmen she bought uniforms for the entire 250-member track team and asked what else the team needed. When Cady said the kids had never had warm up suits she and Olivera went shopping and returned with 250 nylon suits.

"She was probably the most visible and emotionally connected parent in the whole sports program," Samohi's Athletic Director Mike Griswald, who's worked at the school for 33-years. "She was everybody's mother.... She was just so intimately involved."

A former Walt Disney Records executive, Beug also was a filmmaker and video producer, who was honored with an award for her work on Van Halen's video "Right Now." She currently was working on a children's book.

Cady said that Beug's husband John wanted to hold her memorial service on the high school track. When Cady called the twins in Rhode Island he was heartened to learn they were out running.

"That's how you clear your head," he said.

Plans are underway for a plaque in honor of Beug's dedication to the teams. This year's track season will be run in Beug's memory. Track team members talked about wearing black bands, but Cady's wife found similar material with bunnies on it.

"We're going to wear little squares of bunnies to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman," Cady said. "We miss her. We're going to focus on celebrating her life and be joyous in the fact that we had her with us."
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