Laurel Kane, matriarch of Afton Station, dies

Laurel Kane

Laurel Kane, 69, matriarch of the Afton Station visitors center on Route 66 in Afton, Oklahoma, died Thursday from a short illness as the result of a fall at her home in Tulsa earlier in the week, according to her former husband, David Kane.

David Kane said by phone Laurel died peacefully with him, her daughter and longtime Tulsa friend Ron McCoy around her. She will be cremated.

“We plan to have a Laurel Kane celebration at Afton Station in the spring,” David Kane said. “It is our intention to keep Afton Station going without her. We will have to make some changes — maybe charge admission or sell more souvenirs.

“Bottom line, she would want us to celebrate her life by taking a road trip.”

David and Laurel Kane of Connecticut bought the former D-X gas station, built along Route 66 during the 1930s, in 1998 and spent two years restoring it. Laurel Kane moved to Oklahoma permanently in 2002 and met Route 66 tourists at Afton Station several times a week, except for a couple of typically slow winter months. David Kane also keeps his collection of vintage Packard automobiles and memorabilia there.

Kane had endured at least a couple of serious illnesses the last decade in her life, including renal failure that required her to go to dialysis several times a week. But she never lost her enthusiasm for Route 66. She wrote:

My biggest dilemma is deciding whether it’s more fun to travel constantly up and down Route 66, meeting new people and discovering new wonders, or staying at Afton Station and playing host to the friendly folks who drop in to chat. Tough choice, since both are equally appealing!!

KC Keefer profiled Kane with his Genuine Route 66 Life video project:

Kane also maintained her Ramblings of a Route 66 Business Owner blog that not only kept up with goings-on at Afton Station but along the Route 66 corridor during her commutes from Tulsa. Her last post was Jan. 19, when she mused about all the housekeeping and other tasks before she opened Afton Station for spring tourism season.

Kane estimated she greeted about 7,000 tourists a year from 18 countries at Afton Station. Visitors included country-music star Roy Clark and actress Jeanne Tripplehorn.

I came to know Laurel pretty well over the last 15 years or so. Her hospitality was well-known, but she also owned a sophisticated wit and a lifetime of unlikely stories that made her entertaining. She threw great New Year’s Day parties at her house. She was an early champion of this website. She was a matchmaker for at least one married roadie couple and officiated at the wedding of another.

In other words, she’ll be missed by many, for many reasons.

UPDATE 2/14/2016: The Tulsa World published an expanded obituary, with a lot of information even I didn’t know about.

As for memorials in her name, they can be given to the Silver Lake Conference Center, 223 Low Rd., Sharon, CT, 06069. A celebration of life is still set for sometime in the spring, but no definite date has been set yet.

(Image of Laurel Kane via her Facebook page)

22 thoughts on “Laurel Kane, matriarch of Afton Station, dies

  1. Laurel, may you rest in peace with the knowledge that you made a difference. You will be missed! I’m so glad I got to meet you but sad I couldn’t connect with you the last couple of times we passed through.

  2. One very classy lady, great roadie and a true friend to all of us. We will never know just how much pain she suffered over the years yet she never gave up. Hard to put into words just how much she meant to me for her friendship, support and showing us all how to do better. She may be gone but she will never be forgotten.
    We love you Laurel and may you rest in peace. I will miss your phone calls, blog posts and open arms as well as the needed kick-in-pants when needed.

  3. I was so sad to see this news earlier today. It was a pleasure to know her for many years via our blogs, and then to finally meet her on our trip. I will miss her very much.

  4. Nobody had a quicker wit, a more irreverent sense of humor or more grace under fire than Laurel. The first time we spoke, I was interviewing her for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association newsletter, and somehow it came up in conversation that I was redoing my bathroom in a road theme and was thinking of buying a set of pink plastic Cadillac fins from the Archie McPhee catalog to put on my toilet. “Oh, don’t buy them yet,” Laurel said. “I just moved, so I’m not sure which box they’re in, but I think I have a spare set around here.” Not just a set. A SPARE set. In that moment, I knew I’d found one of the few people in this world who vibrated at the same frequency I do — and every time we were together, we seemed to find another random quirk we had in common. Laurel held the distinction of being one of the only three people my late rat terrier, Scout, ever befriended at first sight, and I’ve no doubt Scout’s stubby little tail was wagging a million miles a second when she went dashing to the gates of heaven to greet her old friend today. Travel well, Laurel, and don’t eat all the eel rolls before I catch up. <3

  5. Such sad news. Just as I am this morning, I have started every morning by reading this site and Laurel’s blog for many years. Being in the Detroit area, I never had the chance to travel that far south on 66, thus never had the privilege of meeting her in person. We did trade a few emails, and I had just sent her one last week concerning the on-going efforts to rehab the massive old Packard plant here. I was surprised that I had not heard back from her, and now I know why. I’ll always regret not having the chance to visit her at the station, but will always remember fondly checking her blog daily, and trading the few emails that we did. R.I.P. Laurel.

  6. Ron, thank you for this very nicely written tribute to Laurel. And I’m so pleased you found that great photo of her at her beloved Afton Station. It’s been less than 24 hours since Sarah, David, and I stood by her bed and watched her drift away. I’m so very sad and find it difficult to even comprehend this morning. I do believe that comments already posted here as well as on Facebook guarantee that Laurel was loved and appreciated by many. I would tease her about being a Route 66 “icon” and she always sloughed off the very thought of such a thing. But you know what….Laurel devoted so much of her time, energy, creativity, and money to the Road that she was much more than just a fan. She loved everything about Route 66 and we loved her. Oh, my…..enough from me today.

  7. I and my husband met her once a very sweet lady my husband worked at that station in the late 60s. his name is Jerry Marney. am sure you locals will miss her.

  8. The Mother Road has lost a fine and beautiful lady. However, her love and passion for the road and it’s travelers will live on. RIP, Laurel.

    Rich and the Rest !!

  9. Laurel Kane was one of the most welcoming, wonderful people we ever met. She and Natalie took to each other like a magnet. If you hadn’t seen her for 10 years, you walk into Afton Station and it was like you were there yesterday. You were always her friend, she was always your friend, she was a reason to travel Route 66…we will miss her. Go Raibh Maith Agat, mo cara! SGF Kip

  10. Laurel was a remarkable woman and friend. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her. Compassion to Sarah, David and especially Ron.
    Dan and Jean

  11. I was lucky enough to meet Laurel when we drove ’66 in 2002. I’d mentioned on the email group that I was coming over from England to head down the road. She immediately replied inviting us to drop in in her at Afton and suggested lodgings nearby.

    Afton Station was in a basic state then and taking up much time I’d assume, but merely talking to us and finding us accommodation wasn’t enough. She picked us up, took us to her home, people she’d never met other that online, by a golf course I think, and entertained us for the evening. I fondly remember hours spent looking at post cards, asking questions and getting caught up in her enthusiasm for the latest project at Afton.

    For some reason I didn’t take many pictures at the station the next day as we had a guided tour of the then project, but those I have will be treasured.

    Very saddened that such a passionate advocate for the road has been taken from us, but very privileged to have been able to spend some time in her company.

    Malcolm Cornelius
    Manchester UK.

  12. I stopped in at Afton Station, in July 2011, the one time I was lucky enough to pass through when it was open. I enjoyed the museum quality displays and I bought some picture postcards. Clearly Laurel Kane was concerned to promote Route 66 by displaying it in its best light. She was a real asset to conservation and preservation, not to mention good PR. He untimely death is a real loss for the Old Road and all of us who care about it. Good-bye, Laurel Kane. Thank You and God’s Speed to you as you continue your spiritual journey elsewhere.

  13. I met Laurel several years ago through the old prodigy network where she was active in collecting postcards I met her at a couple of post card shows in New Jersey and ran into her at a postcard show in Ohio She was a true spirit and believed in any project that she undertook

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