Margo Kurtz, Mother of Swoosie Kurtz, Passes Away
Margaret "Margo" Rogers Kurtz, author of the beloved World War II home front memoir My Rival, the Sky, died February 5, 2019 at her home in Toluca Lake, California, at age 103½. She is survived by her daughter, Broadway and television star Swoosie Kurtz, and preceded in death by her husband, Col. Frank Kurtz, the most decorated Air Force pilot of World War II.
A relative and life-long friend of Warren Buffett, Margo was the third of five children, born September 25, 1915 in Omaha, Nebraska to Grace Conant Rogers and Arthur Rogers, President of the Omaha Livestock Commission Company. She met Frank Kurtz while attending the University of Southern California and helped coach him as he trained to compete as a high platform diver in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After Kurtz joined the Air Force, he gave Margo flying lessons, and she soloed many times in a small, open cockpit plane. The two married May 20, 1939 in Omaha.
Wartime audiences were captivated by Margo, the heroine (and some say coauthor) of Queens Die Proudly, W.L. White's bestselling book about the great Flying Fortresses. She toured extensively along with Hollywood celebrities and other writers as part of the war effort and was recognized by the Secretary of the Treasury for completing six war bond tours, during which she spoke to an audience of 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Margo was the first woman to christen a combat airplane when she christened The Swoose, the historic, record-setting aircraft flown by her husband and later installed at the Smithsonian.Kurtz and his surviving companions had cobbled the aircraft together from damaged bombers-"part swan, part goose"-in the Philippines after Pearl Harbor. September 6, 1944, while Kurtz was serving in the Pacific theater, Margo gave birth to their daughter and named the baby Swoosie.
Published by Putnam in 1945, My Rival, the Sky tells the story of Margo and Frank Kurtz's extraordinary partnership and still resonates as a poetically written plea for support and understanding for military families and returning veterans. It was condensed in Cosmopolitan Magazine and selected as a Time Magazine "Book of the Week." In 2014, Penguin Random House reissued My Rival the Sky in tandem with Part Swan, Part Goose, a memoir by Swoosie Kurtz, in which she describes her mother as "the model wartime bride of the 1940s: industrious, beautiful, capable, the perfect combination of stiff upper lip and fire-engine red lipstick. She could pilot a small airplane, feed a small army, and fit nicely into those tailored peplum skirts that were all the rage."
In 1969, Margo traveled to 24 countries in 32 days on behalf of the United States Olympic Committee to get the Games for Los Angeles in 1984. She was known and loved in the Broadway community as the right kind of stage mom-supportive,sociable, and generous-but unabashedly proud of Swoosie's Emmy, Tony, and Obie awards. Margo's sharp mind and joyful spirit lasted well past the century mark. When her physician asked the secret to her longevity, she replied without hesitation: "I love life."