Christopher Kuehn was born Aug. 12, 1954, in New York City to Ernest Kuehn and Gertraud (Zindel) Kuehn, both of whom were immigrants. His father left Germany before World War II and his mother left Germany in 1948. Chris’s family lived in New York City before moving to Munich, Germany, and eventually to Brussels, Belgium, where Chris spent most of his childhood and young adulthood. Chris became multilingual at an early age and mastered English, French, German and Dutch. Chris attended the International School in Brussels before transferring to the European School, where he earned his International Baccalaureate degree in 1972. The love of travel and adventure was instilled in Chris at a young age as his family traveled extensively throughout Europe during school breaks.
At age 12 Chris discovered sailing, and the sport became his lifelong passion. He spent summers at sailing school in England, where one of his fondest memories was skippering a boat around the Isle of Man. He financed the purchase of his first sailboat, a Hobie Cat, by painting houses for neighbors in Brussels. He immediately signed up for regattas and races, mostly on the Belgian coast. The cold waters and rough seas never held him back.
In his late teens, he joined a kibbutz in Israel for one summer to reconnect with relatives who had fled Germany during the war. Chris was always fascinated by his mother’s Jewish ancestry and became an avid genealogist, eventually tracing his family roots back to the 17th century. His work was recognized by the German Genealogy Archive and the German Jewish Family Research Institute.
Chris studied marine biology at the University of Louvain, Belgium. He continued his law degree and postgraduate law degree studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany.
In 1982 Chris moved back to New York City, where he met the love of his life, Aida. They married in 1984 and settled in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Chris was admitted to the New York Bar and worked as an attorney in New York City during the ’80s.
While touring the East End of Long Island on bike one weekend, he and Aida found the charms of the North Fork irresistible and decided to acquire a weekend home in 1985. They moved full time to Cutchogue in 1992.
Chris introduced his two sons, Daniel and Stefan, to sailing from an early age. They would crew for him in their family sailboat, Audax. The family joined Old Cove Yacht Club, where Chris remained an active board member and treasurer until his passing. At Old Cove, he championed the introduction of the Optimist class, the best entry level sailing vessel for children.
Chris understood from his own experiences as a young sailor that the qualities of resiliency, independence, sportsmanship, respect of nature and the marine environment, and co-ed competition and teamwork could be learned early on through this life sport. Not only did he provide the atmosphere for his sons to learn how to sail at Old Cove Yacht Club, but he also took it a step further and managed their sailing careers full time, traveling with them to international youth regattas throughout the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe. He was involved with Long Island Sound Optimist Training (LISOT), where he helped run the Laser team after his sons graduated out of the Optimist class.
Chris became a mentor to numerous young sailors at Old Cove Yacht Club, and several became college sailors in their own right under Chris’ guidance.
In 2012 Chris, Daniel and Stefan founded the high school sailing team at Mattituck High School. This program blossomed into the East End Youth Sailing Foundation. This foundation, with the financial support of local sailing enthusiasts, provides, free of charge, a three-season competitive sailing venue for high school sailors on the East End of Long Island.
In addition to traveling with his sons to regattas, Chris loved to travel with his wife, Aida. During the past five years, he fell in love with Tarifa, Spain, while visiting a childhood friend and fellow sailor. His friend invited him to participate as a crew member in the yearly Strait Challenge Regatta: an international two-day race starting at the Strait of Gibraltar, crossing, and overnighting in Ceuta (a Spanish city on the coast of Africa) and back to Tarifa. He proudly registered for these regattas as an Old Cove Yacht Club member.
Chris was an active runner and yogi, reliably starting the day at 5 a.m. to run with his beloved dog, Jolie.
Chris passed away suddenly on Friday, Sept. 10, after a lengthy battle with ALS. Surviving Chris are his wife, Aida Kuehn (née Reyes); sons Daniel and Stefan; sister Margrit Kuehn; mother-in-law Aida Carde; sisters-in-law Rosa Reyes-Oltarsh and Julia Reyes-Daniels; daughter-in-law Julia Kuehn; brother-in-law Mark Brand; cousins Annette, Dagmar, Nadja and Sonja Zindel in Germany; nephews Peter, Erik, Alex and Sebastian; nieces Natalie and Cara; and great-niece Emilia (1 year old), who brought much joy to his life during the last days of his illness.
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