Magdalena Kuehne dies at 88; SoCal triple-jump record-setter and Masters Hall of Famer

Magdalena (far right) was sixth in the W70 100-meter final at 2001 Brisbane worlds.

Magdalena Kuehne worked for decades in the garment industry and as a costumer, dressing stars at Universal Studios, NBC and Warner Bros. She worked on the TV shows “Growing Pains,” “West Wing” and “Friends” and movies including “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Continental Divide” and “Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.”

But her Southern California Striders family and friends around the world know Magdalena for wearing Team USA colors as a Masters Hall of Famer, with hundreds of great marks in sprints, throws and especially the triple jump.

Magdalena, standing in front of Bogie and Bacall, worked as a Hollywood costumer for many years.

Magdalena, standing in front of Bogie and Bacall, worked as a Hollywood costumer.

Her daughter, Karen, reports that Magdalena died in a hospital May 17 — six days after suffering a stroke. She was 88.

Funeral services are set for Tuesday, May 28, at Holy Cross Cemetery, beginning with a Mass at 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Mortuary Chapel on the first floor, 5835 W. Slauson Ave. in the L.A. suburb of Culver City. Reception follows at the Courtyard by Marriott, 6333 Bristol Parkway (three blocks from cemetery), Culver City. (Parking validated.)

Magdalena retired from Warner Bros. in 2004 at the age of 73. I found a reference to her in The Costumer 10 years later: “A retired Women’s Custom Made foreperson and a member since 1978, Magdalena supervised the Ladies Tailor shop at Warner Brothers for many years until her retirement in 2004. She was recently named to the USATF Masters Hall of Fame – Class of 2013. Magdalena is still competing at age 82 and has held many records in track and field.”

She apparently was a member of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 705, known as the Motion Picture Costumers.

The last time she broke an American record may have been July 2011, when she triple-leaped 5.78 meters (18-11¾) for a W80 best at Berea nationals.

Christel Donley, a relay teammate from the mid-1980s, says she was distraught to hear the news from Karen. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” she told me Saturday. “I was so shocked.”

Like Christel, Magdalena had German ancestry.

She was born in March 1931 in Kruschiwl, Yugoslavia, and was a prisoner in her hometown after World War II, Karen said. But she escaped to Hungary and then Austria in 1946, where she learned the garment trade.

Gold-medal relay team members at 1985 Brisbane worlds included (from left) Irene Obera, Magdalena, Gretchen Snyder, Jeannie Daprano (formerly Hoagland) and Christel Donley (below).

The Rev. Mathias Lani, founder of the St. Stephen Catholic Church in Los Angeles, arranged for her, along with others, to arrive in America (New Orleans) in 1952 via a military boat and then to Los Angeles by train. Father Lani presided at her marriage to her husband, Dieter, on Oct. 31, 1954. They had two children: Harry and Karen.
Karen says her mom started competing in track with the Senior Olympics in 1981 at the age of 50. She set a W60 world indoor record in the triple jump at 1994 Columbia, Missouri, nationals — going 25-9¼. She was inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame in 2013.

Middle-distance star McDuffrie Allen said “she was amazing. Very sad to hear.”

Annelies Steekelenburg — a fellow javelin thrower — wrote: “She was such a beautiful person, inside and out. I will so miss talking to her at the meets.”

Three years ago, amid a rain-stormy-mud-slidy season, Magdalena was quoted in a local paper: “Despite a visit from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, homeowners remained in the Alpine Village area of Big Tujunga Canyon. Thirty-seven-year resident Magdalena Kuehne said she and her husband would leave ‘when rocks start rolling down this street. Now it’s only a little mud and water. That’s not too dangerous.'”

Given her wartime experience, a little rainstorm wasn’t going to faze her.

Magdalena was a fixture of SoCal masters meets. Her presence was a given. It won’t be the same without her.

Magdalena took gold in the W75 javelin at 2008 Spokane nationals.

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at or Story tips always welcome!

4 Comments on "Magdalena Kuehne dies at 88; SoCal triple-jump record-setter and Masters Hall of Famer"

  1. Magdalena was always gracious and elegant on the runway

  2. Christel Donley | May 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Reply

    Magdalenchen, as I called her, was and is…. a lifelong friend, not only on the sports field !
    Ken’s tribute is wonderful and heartwarming.

    Just wishing husband, Dieter, strength and the same for the rest of the family.
    She was the ultimate lady, and will be forever in my/our memory.

  3. Yes, Ken, Christel, Milan, and others, Magdalena was beautiful both inside and outside, and she made masters T&F a more wonderful experience for all who had the good fortune to share it with her.

    These lucky persons could be other athletes, officials, the announcer, or anyone else in her presence. I am very sorry to hear of Magdalena’s passing.

  4. Magdalena was such a dear person. So encouraging. Though this is so very late, my deepest condolences to her family and to all who knew her.

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