Route 66 News

Key figure in Our Lady of the Highways Shrine dies

Loretta (Marten) Ludek, 74, who was instrumental in founding the Our Lady of the Highways Shrine along old Route 66 near Raymond, Ill., died Tuesday at her home in Anderson, Ind., according to an obituary by Brown-Butz-Diedring Funeral Home.

The Our Lady site explains Loretta’s role in getting the statue there:

In June of 1958, members of the Litchfield Deanery’s Catholic Youth Council sought to erect a monument to the Blessed Virgin. The group included kids from Litchfield, Staunton, Mount Olive, Hillsboro, Morrisonville, Divernon, Farmersville and Taylorville amongst others, and one of the members from rural Raymond, Loretta Marten, asked her father Francis to donate space on his farm along US Highway 66 west of the town. He gladly agreed.

Ground was broken on February 11, 1959, with Father Robert Leo Heintz of St. Mary’s in Taylorville presiding over the ceremony. A cararra marble statue of Mary was imported from Italy at a cost of $400, and over the summer the kids worked on preparing the Shrine: building the wooden alcove, laying the brick base and placing the cobblestone walkway up to the statue. Lights were installed so passers-by could view the Shrine day or night. Total cost for the Shrine, including the statue: around $900.

The shrine has looked over old Route 66 — and adjacent Interstate 55 — ever since. Francis Marten, who was elected to the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame, died in 2002, but his family continues to maintain the site.

Loretta worked a nurse at St. John’s Hospital in Anderson and after retiring, taught in the nursing education program at Ivy Tech and worked as a nurse in the clinic at Anderson University. She served as local and state chairwoman of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Francis and Anna Ruth; husband, Michael; daughter, Lisa; and brother, John.

A Mass of Christian burial will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Anderson with The Rev. Richard Doerr presiding and The Rev. Robert Williams concelebrating. Burial will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Anderson.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Brown-Butz-Diedring Funeral Home. The Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Friday.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Ambrose Catholic Church, St. Vincent DePaul, or the charity of choice.


One thought on “Key figure in Our Lady of the Highways Shrine dies

  1. KW

    We drove by the shrine again last night, and got to see it illuminated for the first time; I thought of Mrs. Ludek as we passed by. May she rest in peace.

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