LOLA S. BECK

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BECK LOLA SAROFIM BECK Granddaughter of Marcos Simaika Pascha, founder of the Egyptian Coptic Museum, Lola Sarofim Beck was born in Cairo June 15, 1932, and passed away the afternoon of Christmas Eve 2012 at her home in Virginia Beach, VA. She was the eldest of four siblings who all attended the English School in Heliopolis where they learned English as the principal medium for conversing with their father, but spoke French with their mother, Italian with the nanny, and Arabic with the domestic staff. After finishing school in Cairo and in England, Lola married Shoukry Amin Khayatt, also a Copt from Alexandria. While on their honeymoon in France, the newlyweds were involved in an automobile accident which left Lola a young widow. In the years that followed her recuperation from injuries, she traveled extensively on the Continent, England and much of the United States where she renewed contact with former schoolmates and acquired new friendships wherever she visited. Some of the time was spent in New York where she briefly worked at the Libyan Consulate General and also chaperoned her younger sister who was a student at Parsons School of Design. In New York Lola and her mother met a U.S. naval officer, Stuart Morgan Beck, who was about to complete a year-long Arabic language course in Washington prior to being posted to Egypt as an assistant naval attaché. They had several dates together in New York but another year would pass before the two saw each other again in Cairo. Although a resident of Port Said with representational responsibilities covering the 101-mile long Suez Canal, Stuart needed to make periodic contact with his boss at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, some 125 miles from Port Said. With Lola still absent from Egypt, Stuart when in Cairo would stop by the Sarofim residence and in time came to know and see a great deal of the family, parents and siblings, less a brother getting a doctorate at M.I.T. Finally, Lola repatriated herself and reappeared in Cairo, even lovelier in Stuart's eyes than when they had first met more than a year earlier in Manhattan. After six months of dating and bonding, they became unofficially engaged, and it took another six months to overcome the bureaucratic red tape which had impeded an official engagement. They were married on June 3, 1961 at the Anglican Cathedral adjacent to Tahrir Square, honeymooned in Alexandria and enjoyed their new, to Lola, residence in a flat at Port Said, with northerly exposure to the Mediterranean and easterly to the entrance of the Suez Canal, but only for the next six months before relocating to Norfolk where Lola's husband was ordered to be the executive officer aboard the refrigerated stores ship USS HYADES (AF-28). As soon as the ship arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for refresher training in October 1962, it was abruptly reassigned the mission of evacuating 290 Navy dependents back to Norfolk as President Kennedy announced to the world the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lola appreciated her husband's reassignment to shore duty at CinCLantFlt Headquarters because it enabled them to remain for another three years in Norfolk where she was enjoying new friendships and acquiring a host of enthusiastic bridge pals equally addicted to the game. The three-year extension in Tidewater ended all too soon for Lola when her husband was ordered to an afloat amphibious staff homebased in the Philippines. The family, which included four-year-old daughter Claudia, traveled to Subic, expecting to stay in Subic Bay quarters for two years. With U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalating, no sooner did the Becks arrive in Subic and get settled into quarters than it was announced that the homeport of the amphibious staff, plus dependents, was being reassigned to Coronado and henceforth the staff would be given unaccompanied nine-month deployments to Southeast Asia, on an alternating rotation basis with another amphibious staff. Thus, Claudia and her parents enjoyed each other's company back in Coronado only long enough to find a house and get settled before the amphibious staff's redeployment back to the war zone. On his return to Coronado nine months later, Lola's husband was pleased to receive orders to take command of the USS VALCOUR (AGF-1), which was the Middle East Force command flagship homeported in Bahrain but temporarily undergoing an extensive overhaul in Portsmouth, VA. The Navy's schedule called for an October 1968 VALCOUR change of command in Portsmouth, VA, followed successively by shipyard overhaul completion as soon as possible, by refresher training in Guantanamo, by an 18,000-mile voyage (with Suez Canal closed) from Norfolk back to the Persian Gulf via fuel stops in Senegal, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya, and Djibouti. The Becks' schedule called for the three of them to drive in a compact diesel Mercedes in August cross-country to temporary quarters in Portsmouth and to see which would come first: shipyard delivery of an overhauled ship ready for refresher training, or their meeting the airline's deadline for no travel in the third trimester of an expectant mother. It turned out that on the first day of February 1969 the VALCOUR departed Norfolk for Guantanamo in the morning and one of Stuart's classmates put the Beck entourage (minus father) on an airliner to Cairo that same afternoon. Lola, Claudia and two-month-old Christopher, who had been born in Cairo, were on the Mina Sulman pier in Bahrain to celebrate the VALCOUR's return to her homeport after an eight-week voyage via the Cape of Good Hope and resumption of duty as the ComMidEastFor flagship. Unlike Subic Bay where quarters were provided, the Becks once again were back to house hunting, only this time they got lucky early-on, and promptly named the house with a view of the gulf Villa Valcour. Once again, Lola had no difficulty in identifying the bridge players among the locals, Brits and petroleum community. A highlight she fondly remembered is that of Christopher being christened aboard the VALCOUR by the staff chaplain with holy water contained in the inverted ship's bell. Once again all too soon, the Becks' stay in Bahrain came to an end when the flagship headed to Mauritius for her husband's detachment change of command ceremony. Lola's interests centered around her family, her ever present search for a good game of duplicate bridge, and always bringing to the table meals representing the best of East and West haute cuisine. What occurred over the course of the last forty years of Lola's life for the most part all took place in Virginia: Arlington, McLean and Tidewater, encompassing graduation from college for both Claudia and Christopher, their marriages, and parenthood: one boy and one girl for each. She was predeceased by her brother Dr. Adel F. Sarofim, who died in December 2011. Survivors include, in addition to her husband Stuart Morgan Beck, her daughter Claudia Mountjoy Redd of Suffolk, son Christopher Hollingsworth Beck of Chesterfield, her brother Nabil Fares Sarofim of Woodbridge, Nabila Sarofim Harris of London UK, four grandchildren, and her double-first cousin Fayez Sarofim of Houston. In lieu of flowers, donations to charities of personal choice would be appreciated. H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments Laskin Road Chapel is handling the arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to hdoliver.com

Published in The Washington Post on Dec. 28, 2012
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