April 4, 2005
Reprinted from the South Bay Daily Breeze
Former UCLA football star Kurt Altenberg, who started his career in the South Bay, died on Sunday afternoon at Torrance Memorial Hospital. He was 61.
Doctors removed melanoma from Altenberg last year but the cancer re-emerged recently, causing flu-like symptoms and spreading too quickly for it to be stopped this time.
"He was on life support," said son-in-law John Brennan. "The cancer exploded in him."
Altenberg grew up in Inglewood and went to Serra High. He had been working at Serra as its receivers coach under his son, Scott, who is the school's head football coach.
He was a beloved UCLA wide receiver that was best remembered for catching the winning touchdown pass in the 1965 UCLA-USC game, a 20-16 victory that led the Bruins to the Rose Bowl game. The Los Angeles Sports Council named UCLA's fourth-quarter comeback in that game the 35th greatest moment in Los Angeles sports history.
UCLA stunned No. 1 and undefeated Michigan State, 14-12, in the Rose Bowl and Altenberg had three catches for 55 yards, helping the Bruins to their first Rose Bowl victory and a No. 4 finish in the rankings under Coach Tommy Prothro.
Altenberg graduated from UCLA in 1966 as its all-time leading receiver and is currently 16th all-time with 87 catches for 1,444 yards. He won the John F. Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year in 1963 and led the Bruins in receiving in 1964 with 31 catches for 428 yards and 1965 with 32 catches for 599 yards. He did not play pro football, leaving his football legacy to UCLA.
"Everybody remembers him making that catch in 1965 to beat USC," Brennan said. "Mike Garrett was on the other side and everyone thought USC was going to the Rose Bowl, but he broke all those USC fans' hearts."
The Rolling Hills Estates resident suffered a broken heart himself, having successful heart transplant surgery in 1994.
Altenberg has three children -- Kristin, Scott and Heidi. Doctors were planning to release him from the hospital on Thursday before his body unexpectedly shut down. Heidi, his youngest daughter, flew back from Paris and saw her father one last time, minutes before he died.
Services will be Saturday at St. John Fisher Church in Rancho Palos Verdes at a time to be determined.