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Mildred Kugler

Sport: Cycling

Born: September 17, 1925

Town: Somerville

Mildred Kugler was born September 17, 1925 in Somerville to Fred and Edna Kugler. She was the second of their four children. Mildred’s father, known far and wide as “Pop”, owned the local bicycle shop and was a respected race promoter. He was grooming Mildred’s brother, Furman, who was three years older, to be a champion, but never thought of his daughter as a competitive rider.

That changed one day at Johnson Park in Piscataway. During an afternoon of races she conned a track official into lending her a bike and letting her enter a race. Each time she passed Pop he shook his finger at her. But by the end of the race he had changed his mind and began training her, too.

Mildred began riding competitively at the age of 13. She finished second in the 1939 state championships and fourth in the nationals in Columbus, Ohio. In 1940, her father inaugurated the Tour de Somerville, a 50-mile race run on a 1 ¼ -mile circuit. Furman won the race. He repeated as champion in 1941.

In 1940, Mildred won the state title as well as the national championship, in Detroit. Pop, meanwhile, won the men’s tandem championship. Mildred had her brother both qualified for the Olympic team, but the Summer Games, scheduled for Helsinki, were called off.

In 1941, Mildred repeated as New Jersey champion, while finishing third in the nationals in Pasadena. In 1942, at an event in Montclair, Mildred set speed records at five distances—one, two, three, four and five miles. She also won the state title for the third year in a row.

Mildred quit racing in 1943. Her brother was killed in action aboard the Wichita off Okinawa in 1945.

After getting married and producing four children, Mildred returned to the sport in the early 1950s, winning the 1952 state championship and placing third in the nationals. She won the state title again in 1953 and continued to be one of the nation’s top competitors into her 30s, and was still riding at age 90 after moving to Tennessee. She returned to Somerville periodically to attend the Tour de Somerville. The women’s race, which started in 1976, was named in her honor.

In 2002, Mildred was inducted into the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame. She followed her late brother, who was inducted seven years earlier. Their father entered the Hall in 1987.

 

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