Malibu has lost Maggie Luckerath, known by many as ‘Mama Bu’ 

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Maggie Luckerath is shown with Michael Leicht, owner of Ventura Brush Goats, after the running of the goats in Malibu west last year. Luckerath, known to Malibu residents at "Mama Bu" passed away at the age of 78 on April 5. Archive photo.

She was instrumental in helping locals enjoy concerts and charitable events in the city

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

Short in stature, but long on kindness and amiability, Maggie Luckerath was always ready to lend a helping hand to others and to make Malibu a better place.  Luckerath passed away at the age of 78 on April 5 surrounded by friends and family after valiantly battling leukemia.

Every town has one — a person who exemplifies the spirit of camaraderie shared only by those who have lived in the area for a long time and who deeply love their town and its residents.  Malibu had Luckerath, whom many would describe as a force of nature — and a force of good for Malibu. Knowing her as “Mama Bu,” several grieving neighbors and friends recalled that she was the hostess with the mostess as she coordinated weekly buffets at the Summer concerts that locals treasure on Trancas lawn and that she was so generous.

“Maggie was a force to be reckoned with.  She loved her ‘Bu’ community with all her heart,” Wailani O’Herlihy shared. “She could be outspoken because of her German heritage, but you always knew where she was coming from because she didn’t hide her feelings.  Malibu loved her. Maggie would organize potluck dinners for the Vintage Summer Series and we had gourmet food.”

Reflecting further, O’Herlihy added, “Even though Maggie was sick at the time, she quickly donated medical supplies for Lahaina, Maui, when the fire hit. She was selfless like that — Maggie had a special Aloha for Malibu and we’ll all miss her dearly.”

Born Magadelina Anna Frey, Luckerath began her life in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. She was the youngest daughter of nine children born to two German immigrants, the late Frederick C. and Anna Huber Frey.  Maggie and her siblings lost their father in a tragic accident when she was only 5. Perhaps that reality helped to shape her independent, fair-minded, charitable nature that endeared her to many in Malibu. No doubt such a tragedy and its consequences also helped to inform and define Luckerath’s sense of fairness and the incredible kindness that she often extended to strangers who were down on their luck and in need of a helping hand.

Like most farm families facing such obstacles, Luckerath, her siblings, their mother and the extended family remained a tight-knit group. Luckerath’s older brother, Fred took over the reins and, with the help of siblings, he built the farm into a thriving business, assisted a little by Amish neighbors whom they employed to lend a hand. Such resilience taught Luckerath frugality — which she stated was a key secret to successful relationships and lives — but it also ingrained in her a common sense and kindness.

Malibu was not Luckerath’s next stop along her life’s pathway. Rather, right after high school, she went to Washington, D.C. where she worked for the federal government, using her people’s skills and learning her life-long skill sets and perspectives that focused on having not only a local, but a global, perspective.

“Looking back, I guess it was my roots in Southern Lancaster County and being a farm girl who learned hard working ethics at home that gave me the foundation on which to build my later years,” Luckerath once told this journalist. “Straight from the plowed fields of my family’s farm — Twin Oaks Farm near Quarryville, Pennsylvania, I ended up in Washington D.C., working for the Veterans Administration where I was the receptionist at their Administrative building just opposite of Lafayette Park and near the White House.” 

Luckerath said that “she loved money and saving,” but that she also “bought a brand new Mustang out of the showroom.” But, most of all, she was adventurous. After a few years in Washington, she traveled overseas, first to visit her father’s family in the Black Forest, and her mother’s family in Rosenhein near Munich. Then it was on to Geneva, Switzerland, where she landed a job at Chrysler — that was a long way to go for a young American farmgirl, especially so many decades ago.  

However,  it was a trip that helped to chart her life’s course. Hubert Luckerath, a successful young German banker, saw a good thing when he encountered it.  Attracted by Maggie’s vivacious personality, humor, and good looks, Hubert soon proposed and, ultimately, two children blessed Maggie’s and Hubert’s life. 

It wasn’t until their later years that Hubert and Maggie blessed Malibu — and bless it, she did. She loved to walk on the beach. Locals would stop to chat as Maggie seemed to know everything that mattered in the community. Her doing so resulted in many Malibuites feeling that Maggie mattered to the community — she was a key contributor to the many wefts that locals continue to weave as they create and update Malibu’s colorful tapestry.

“Losing Maggie is such a loss for the community — she was a woman with a big, big heart,” Pastor Erin Stenberg of Malibu Methodist Church said. “Maggie had a great knack for pulling people together and for creating a welcoming community.”   

Grieving over Maggie’s body right after she passed, O’Herlihy kindly and sadly bid her friend adieu, saying, “We’ll see you again soon, firecracker!” referring to Luckerath’s vivacious and industrious nature. As those grieving someone lost know, it’s a solace when there is a symmetry to memories of the departed. In Luckerath’s case, being characterized at the end of her life by a good friend evinced that she always had her essential, ebullient nature — Luckerath once shared that her nickname in high school was “Live Wire.”  Both descriptors aptly characterize her and, as friends and family are grieving the loss of Maggie Luckerath, many are wistfully wishing that locals will carry on her energetic, empathetic, charitable legacy. 

Luckerath is survived by her loving husband of 55 years, Hubert; her daughter, Tanya; and son, Peter. She is also survived by siblings Anita Barthelson, John Frey (Mary), and C. William “Willie” Frey (Joan). She was preceded in death by siblings Frederick “Fred” Frey, Adolf “Pete” Frey, Ernst “Ernie” Frey, Siegfried Frey, and Maria Frey.

Services to honor Luckerath will be private at the convenience of family and close friends.  In lieu of sending donations or flowers, readers can honor Luckerath’s wish that they take the time to enjoy Malibu’s beaches and, most importantly, to be kind to one another.