Karen Beebe, 59, Inspired Many

Karen Beebe, a Redondo Beach resident who worked at American Martyrs School in Manhattan Beach, died Monday evening.

Karen Beebe, a Redondo Beach resident who worked as the gym director for American Martyrs School in Manhattan Beach, passed away from breast cancer Monday evening. She was 59.

According to her husband, Karen Beebe had been under home hospice care for a week, during which her family left the front door open and people streamed through.

"It was unbelievable," Bill Beebe said Wednesday, adding that she wasn't in any pain at the end.

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Karen Beebe was first diagnosed in 2005, but she was declared cancer-free after a mastectomy that removed her right breast and 23 lymph nodes. When it returned in June 2010, she discovered it had metastasized to her liver.

She was known for her sunny smile and for wearing a variety of fun hats and scarves after she lost her hair during chemotherapy. Wigs made her feel like she was wearing a "stuffed animal," she told Patch last year.

Despite her death, the much-loved gym director's memory will live on.

Her battle with cancer was the inspiration behind her son's "Long Hair Don't Care" project, which sells T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, Karen Beebe's name and a pink ribbon for $15. As of last summer, the project had raised more than $14,000 for cancer research.

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Brett Beebe's project was not the only one his mother inspired. In fall 2010, for a school project, a group of then-seventh-grade students at American Martyrs sold pink bandanas for $2 each to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Ellie Nolan, who also attended American Martyrs last year, sold 300 handmade braided bracelets and mosaic crosses symbolizing breast cancer awareness and donated the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Foundation in Karen Beebe's name.

"Karen Beebe is like an aunt to me," Ellie told Patch last year. "I used to bring her fuzzy beanies and socks to wear to keep her head and feet warm after chemo. I brought her a fuzzy blanket and a Pillow Pet to use during the day when she was tired."

Brett Beebe, who is attending Western Michigan University, is now organizing a paddle-out in his mother's honor. Scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the end of 15th Street in Manhattan Beach, the event is sponsored by Tarsan Stand-up Paddleboarding Shop and The Yard in Hermosa Beach and will include food, drinks and music.

A flowered lei will be sent out to sea as part of the ceremony.

"It's my way of honoring my mom," Brett Beebe said. "Everyone is welcome."

He told Patch that he was inspired by the amount of support people have shown his family during a difficult time.

"I've gotten hundreds of emails from all over the country, from Canada, everywhere," Brett Beebe said. "People were touched by my mom, whether they met her once or knew her for years. She always saw the good and genuine in each person she met. My mom truly believed in everyone."

In an interview at the beginning of the year, Karen Beebe told Patch that her New Year's resolution was to continue battling her cancer.

"I want to remember how blessed I have been," she said. "Most of all, I want to make more time for my dear family and friends that have made my battle worth fighting. Then I am going to buy more bandanas."

Beebe is survived by her husband, Bill; and her two children, Brett and Krista.

A memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at O'Donnell Hall at American Martyrs Church, located at 1624 15th St. in Manhattan Beach. The family requests that people wear bright colors, not black. All are invited.

Katharine Blossom Lowrie contributed to this report.

LouAnne July 26, 2012 at 03:04 PM
You know when I firest moved to North Redondo with my husband, I would walk our dog Thatcher in the evening. I always passed by this adorable house w a wishing well out front and there always seemed to be laughter spilling out the door and windows. I thought to myself, a really fun person lives here! Years later I began a job in the Rectory of American Martyrs and figured out through conversation with Karen that she was that really fun woman with a really joyful family in that darling home w the wishing well. I was glad our paths crossed again. Thoughts and prayers with the Beebe family. Love, LouAnne Cappiello
Cari Gilbert July 26, 2012 at 04:22 PM
My daughter Elyssa and I loved Mrs. Beebe. I am in tears as I write this comment and dread having to deliver the news to my daughter. Mrs. Beebe was such a special lady. Her positive and cheery disposition would immediate put a smile on my face. She had such a kind and warm spirit, we are going to miss her so much. Every summer when camp ended, my daughter Elyssa cried because she felt such a connection with Mrs. Beebe and her team. What a sad reminder of how truly fragile life is. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Beebe family. May the Lord watch over you and give you the strength during this very difficult time. God Bless you, Mrs. Beebe. Our deepest condolences, The Gilbert Family.
Elizabeth July 27, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Karen has helped raise so many kids....and adults! She was never without a smile, a hug or a kind word...just when you needed it the most. We will always miss her and she has a special place in our hearts. I'll always refer to Martyrs gym as "Mrs. Bebe's Gym".
CHARLIE SCHOLZ July 29, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Pam O'Brien August 10, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Karen had a Great Roll model in Her Mom Connie, I met Karen and her Family while spending my Time with her Awesome Mother. Her Mother passed from Cancer in 2006 after Karen was also diagnosed with Cancer. Both Women and their Families were and are AWESOME and Fun People. All are dearly missed.


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