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Posted on August 4, 2008 | 10:18 a.m.

Michaele Carnahan, 1947-2008


Michaele Carnahan, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61 while on a flight to Atlanta on Wednesday, spent her life quietly taking care of other people’s problems. She would have been embarrassed about all of the attention she’s received and apologetic for any trouble and inconvenience she might have caused.

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Michaele Carnahan
Michaele moved to Santa Barbara from San Luis Obispo in 1993. For 15 years she ran the oral and maxillofacial surgery practice at the Center for Corrective Jaw Surgery, 9 E. Pedregosa St. The doctors and staff describe Michaele as an exceptional individual, professionally and personally. She was caring and competent in equal measure, excelling at work, but always finding time to personally help friends and colleagues in need.

In addition to managing two offices with five doctors and 15 staff members, Michaele ran a maxillofacial surgery educational foundation. Her work brought her into contact with orthodontists, surgeons and patients from all over the world. The tributes to her that have come in from near and far all speak of her warmth, kindness and professionalism.

Dr. Lance Mason wrote from New Zealand, “She was a dear and wonderful woman, a bullet-proof friend, and an irreplaceable and invaluable asset to her job, which was always far more than a job to her — it was a devoted career for which hundreds of professionals are indebted, and the lives of thousands of patients around the world are profoundly enhanced and enriched.”

Michaele bought a home in Ventura in 2003 and was active in her parish church there. She was very close to family, and traveled to Florida frequently to visit her three sisters and their children. In 1992, she lost her son and only child, Sean, to bacterial meningitis when he was a 22-year-old student at Cal Poly.

Michaele was on a Delta Air Lines red-eye flight en route to Florida to attend her nephew’s wedding at the time of her death. She had worked a full day that day, was in good spirits and — as always — appeared to feel energetic and in good health. In fact, two days after Michaele’s death, the passenger who was seated next to her called the office where she worked. He wanted to share with Michaele’s employers what a lovely, joyful person she was and how delighted he was to meet her.

The man said that for three hours she chatted animatedly with him, mostly about her job and the people she works with. He also wanted her friends and colleagues to know that she seemed very happy and comfortable while they talked during the first half of the flight. He awoke just before landing when Michaele quietly stepped in front of him to go to the lavatory. Even then, she showed no sign of urgency or distress. If she had been feeling ill, it would have been just like Michaele to try not to bother anyone, and to keep it to herself.

A memorial service will be held at the Santa Barbara Mission at 9 a.m. Friday. Michaele will be buried next to her son, Sean, at Mission Cemetery in San Luis Obispo.


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