Obituary: Ann Curtis Cuneo
March 6, 1926 - June 26, 2012
Ann Curtis Cuneo, died Tuesday at home in San Rafael, California. She was 86. Ann was one of the best-known female athletes of her time and was the first woman and first swimmer to win the Sullivan Award as the nation’s best amateur athlete in 1944. That same year she was also named the Associated Press female athlete of the year and was a cover girl on the front of Colliers, Newsweek and several other national magazines. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1966.
Ann Curtis Cuneo was the premier freestyler of her era and star swimmer of Hall of Fame coach Charlie Sava's Crystal Plunge teams, of San Francisco, that won 9 straight AAU National Women's titles (4 Indoor and 5 Outdoor) from 1944 through 1948. She was the National Meets High Point Trophy winner seven times, a feat no other American woman has ever done. At the London Olympics of 1948, she was in the front of the 400-meter freestyle and the 800 meter freestyle relay, winning two gold medals. She was a middle distance swimmer and not a sprinter, yet she won the U.S. 100 yard--100 meter crown six times and won the silver medal in London behind Danish Hall of Famer Greta Andersen in the Olympic 100 meters.
Neither AAU Nationals nor the Olympics had as many events for women in Ann Curtis' time or her times might have resulted in several other gold medals at London--certainly the 800 meters and probably the 200, at least one of the 400 relays and maybe the 1500.
Because of World War II the Olympic Games were cancelled in 1944, however she was unanimously chosen for the "Mythical Olympic Team" by the International Swimming Hall of Fame. When she finally competed in the 1948 games, Ann was 22 years old. Ann married her college sweetheart, Gordon Cuneo, in 1949. Ann met Gordon at Cal where he was a starting forward on the basketball team.
In spite of all of the competitive swimming accolades Ann always thought her signature achievement was building and operating the Ann Curtis School of Swimming in San Rafael. While raising five children, she coached a swim team for 25 years, a synchronized team for 12 years, and built the business into the well-known swim school and private swim club that it is today. For the past 53 years, she has provided a valuable service to the community. It is estimated that over 40,000 students have learned to swim at her school. Celebrated graduates include Rick DeMont (gold medalist, Munich, 1972 and world record holder in the '70s) and Ben Wildman-Tobriner (gold medalist, Beijing, 2008). Ann is preceded in death by her husband Gordon and her son Bill Cuneo.
Family and friends are invited to a memorial service and reception on Saturday, July 21 in the San Rafael Ballroom at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to her Swimming Scholarship Fund at UC Berkeley. Checks may be made to UC Regents, with a memo to the Ann Curtis Cuneo Swimming Scholarship Fund, 195 Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA 94720 or call Brian Raney at (510) 643-0888.