Remembering Ramona Lehman, a well-loved icon of Route 66

A well-known and -loved motel operator on Route 66 has passed away.

One of the most iconic motels on all of Route 66 is the Munger Moss, in Lebanon, MO. It’s been in business since 1946. In 1971, Bob and Ramona Lehman bought and operated it. Bob died several years ago, and Ramona kept it going on her own.

Munger Moss Motel

When we arrived to check into our room, Ramona was waiting for us at the desk. She was tickled that I was showing my sons the Mother Road. “It’s just wonderful that you’re introducing the road to the next generation!” She then upgraded us to Room 66, which was loaded with art related to the route.

Some of my roadfan friends who have made many Route 66 tours had become close to Ramona over the years. If they didn’t stay the night on their way through, they at least stopped to say hello. My Facebook feed has been full yesterday and today of photos from these visits, including some with Ramona holding babies who are now nearly grown.

Meeting people like Ramona is the greatest joy of traveling Route 66. Sure, driving the old alignments and seeing historic road infrastructure is interesting (for a roadfan like me). But unlike any other road I’ve toured, Route 66 is alive with personality because people like Ramona are on it, providing good services to travelers.

Ramona sold the Munger Moss earlier this year, or tried to. Her health had been in decline and she just couldn’t keep it going alone anymore. There was a confirmed deal, but it apparently fell through.

Ramona died yesterday from complications related to her declining health, exacerbated by an automobile accident last week. She was 85.

I’ve often said that now is the time to get out and photograph what you see, as things change. Similarly, now is the time to get out on Route 66, if ever you had an itch to, so you don’t miss out on the lovely people who live and work on the route.

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15 responses to “Remembering Ramona Lehman, a well-loved icon of Route 66”

  1. matt Avatar

    A photographer friend of mine has a Route 66 photo exhibit on display this month in Lubbock; we’re looking forward to seeing it. Her husband said they did the entire route at an average of 17mph due to all the turning around and driving back for photos.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I identify with that! Sometimes I can spend ten hours covering 60 miles on a road trip.

  2. Shaun Nelson Avatar

    My wife and I met Ramona on our Route 66 trip last year when we stayed at the Munger Moss. I took several pictures of her. As we worked our way west, everyone we spoke with along our route asked if we had stopped to see Ramona. Everyone knew her and everyone loved her.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s awesome! I think Ramona enjoyed being an ambassador of the road.

  3. JR Smith Avatar

    Back in the 1990s, I drove Route 66 from near Gallup, New Mexico west to the Arizona/California border…or at least as much of it as I could still find. I-40 was my back-up. I was in the final miserable stages of my first marriage and needed the time to myself. My regret is that I did not bring a camera along and this was before cameras in cell phones. The images are still in my mind however.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A long road trip is a great way to get some alone time. For sure.

  4. Khürt Williams Avatar

    Love that neon sign.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Some years ago it got grant money to be restored. Glad they did that.

  5. M.B. Henry Avatar

    :( We didn’t get a chance to meet her when we did our 66 tour, but we met a lot of interesting and lovely people that sound like they were a lot like her. You’re right, the personalities really make the road what it is. RIP Ramona!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      By the time my sons and I made the trip, several other icons of the road had already passed. I would have liked to meet them.

  6. brandib1977 Avatar

    Beautiful tribute, Jim. The people, those characters who love doing what they do, truly add a bit of magic to the world.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      And make a good road trip that much more compelling.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Yes!!! The intersection of people and place is where memories are made.

  7. Rick Bell Avatar
    Rick Bell

    Just think Jim… we can see her in the new world and meet all the people who travelled Route 66!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s ….a lot of people!!

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