Curtis Allen (Kuderna) Kendall, former record industry executive who moved to Glendale as a child and had long ties to the city, passed away March 5 at the age of 89 after an infection and chronic illnesses.
Like so many of his generation, Curt had left the Midwest for a new life in Southern California, where he truly found his place in the sun.
Curt was only 10 when he boarded a train in 1943 to cross the continent with his brother, Ron, and sister, Gloria, leaving behind ice-cold Phillips, Wisconsin. Their father had left the family and, seeing no future in the small town, their mother, Faye, with eldest son Dave, had gone ahead to start over in the L.A. suburb of Glendale.
The five squeezed into a cramped apartment and lived on 25-cent bowls of chili but in time found their footing in the booming post-war L.A. region. A kindly storekeeper took Curt under his wing, providing him with an after-school job, and Curt earned A’s and was editor of the school paper before graduating from Glendale High School and then attending UCLA for a time.
While at UCLA, Curt worked for Glendale’s parks and recreation department and also took a job at the Capitol Records manufacturing plant in Los Angeles. He quickly rose through the management ranks and soon was an executive working in the famous Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood and traveling to plants around the country. Over the years, he would meet stars ranging from George Harrison to Kenny Rogers to The Beach Boys.
His most important Capitol encounter, however, came in his early days at the tower. There he met his beloved wife, Judee, who was his assistant at the time, and they wed in 1964.
A devoted Christian, Curt was active at that time in Montrose Community Church, leading youth groups and assisting in other areas. It was his pastor and mentor Charles Svendsen who introduced Curt to In-N-Out Burger, one of many old-time L.A. eateries that Curt would remain a fan of throughout his life.
In those early days of marriage, with young children in tow, Curt and Judee decided on a lark to drive to the semi-rural area north of Los Angeles to see the new master-planned community of Valencia. They bought a home and would raise three boys in what became the city of Santa Clarita.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Curt served on the area’s Citizen’s Planning Council and successor panels, and was a persistent advocate for saving Santa Clarita’s majestic oak trees.
He and Judee returned to live in Glendale for a time in the ’90s, and Curt maintained ties to the city through his wife’s many years as publisher of the News-Press and later as executive director of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.
After retirement, he spent much of his time with his son, John, who had schizophrenia. In his later years, Curt often expressed wonder at how the region had developed and never lost his love for its mountains and sunsets. He valued his family role of leading prayers at gatherings, always reminding those present of God’s love and provision. Even as his health declined with advanced age, he maintained his many interests, including historic preservation, classic cars, the Dodgers and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. And his family is still finding In-N-Out wrappers in various places.
Curt was preceded in death by sons William (Bill) and John; his brother Dave; and his sister Gloria. He is survived by his wife, Judee; sons Paul and Mark; daughters-in-law Jennifer and Tina; his brother Ron; and six grandchildren.
First published in the March 11 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.