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.
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)