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Friends, family remember paddlers

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Two families and the paddling community are mourning the loss of two paddlers who died after their canoe flipped over from the rough seas. Ryan Cepeda, 18, and Kayleen Mendiola, 21, both shared the same love for the ocean, having spent most of their days at the beach, even joining paddling teams for fun. 

Chauncey Calvo went to school with Cepeda at George Washington High School and the two became close friends when they became paddling buddies. "I know that Ryan has touched so many lives, you know. Not only members of our team but members of other teams, even sister teams. And teams that probably don't even know him but they knew what type of guy he was," he said.

Several of Ryan's friends gathered for a small, but solemn memorial ceremony Monday night where each of them placed flowers near the shore and tossed them into the water. Mike James was Cepeda's paddling teammate on Guatdan Tasi. "Ryan was hilarious," he shared. "The one thing I do remember about him was that if anyone needed a ride, you would go to Ryan. He would pack seven guys in his car to take home. Mostly the whole team."

Cepeda's teacher at GW, Tina Flores, says he was very respectful, kind and loving. She says they recently just got back from competing in the Micro Cup in Palau. "His love for paddling - oh my goodness. I just saw him wednesday. We both wanted to go out into the waters. I said, 'That's not my call', but he just loves the water and he just loves the ocean. And he was a very good person and I'm very honored for our paths to have crossed," she said.

Mendiola also spent most of her days by the beach. She had been paddling for about a year. According to her uncle Jesse Pangelinan, she was also ambitious with plans to finish school at the Guam Community College in order to become an accountant. She even worked part time as a cashier at island fresh in Chalan Pago.

He said, "She was a very bubbly person. She enjoyed music and she enjoyed being around her family and her friends. And it showed. She would also make time for everybody and if somebody would call and say, 'I need an ear' she would spend at any great length some time with that person."

Pangelinan says it's evident that Mendiola was loved by all who knew her. "It was great to see an outpouring of support and I guess that's how close they are and it made us feel real good that she was loved also by them and that they really take good care of their own and that was great in knowing. And it helps comfort us with our loss," he explained.  

Rosaries for Cepeda begin at 6pm with mass right after at 7pm at the Catholic church in Toto. Mass for Mendiola will be held at Yona church beginning at 7pm tonight.

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