A pair of headlights on a dark road were the last thing Dorothy Buechy remembered before she crashed one week ago off Westside Road, she told her daughters from her hospital bed.
Three days later, the amateur ballerina, who during her career as a scientist was among the early researchers in human genetics, succumbed to her injuries, initially reported to be moderate, and died. She was 86.
Buechy was returning home from a benefit event Oct. 16 in Guerneville for a holiday show, in which she had a role, with Monte Rio's Curtain Call Theater when she crashed into a tree and utility pole sometime after midnight.
She had stayed at the Rainbow Cattle Company to help clean up, long after most had gone home, said Michael Tabib, Curtain Call founder and artistic director.
"She told me how much she loved me, and I said so to her," said Tabib, who began coaching her in acting in the 1980s. "I had no idea what was going to happen, neither did she. I will miss her terribly."
To be on stage was Buechy's lifelong dream, one she finally pursued after retiring, said her daughter, Barbara Rankin of Lodi.
CHP officers suspect her driving was impaired by alcohol, although toxicology tests have not yet been finalized. Her family and friends suspect a combination of exhaustion, wine and her slight frame contributed to the crash.
"She was with her friends raising money for the theater," Rankin said. "Everyone said she'd been happy. She was just doing what she loved."
Buechy was born Dorothy Yvonne Whissell on April 12, 1926, in St. Louis to Erna and George Whissell.
After graduating from a private school in St. Louis called the Mary Institute, she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts.