Route 66 in the News

In Memoriam: Bob Audette

2012-03-31 08:37:58

New Mexico Route 66 activist, Bob Audette, known as ‘Mr. Route 66’, has died.

Bob grew up around Central Avenue and Columbia Drive in Albuquerque, one of the last sections of Route 66 to be paved. He recalled seeing the Dust Bowl travelers come through in the 1930s. Audette dropped out of Albuquerque High School when he was 16 to volunteer during WWII; he told them he was 18. He was an underwater demolition expert for the Navy. A photo on his wall from Okinawa in 1944 says they lost two ships in one night and he spent 19 hours in the water without a life jacket.

Bob returned to Albuquerque after the war and became an ironworker, working on some of the tallest structures in the country. He lived into the foothills east of the city before moving to his long-time home on Route 66 at Barton, just west of Edgewood.

Bob Audette was not happy with the interstate at his back door and the decommissioning of Route 66. He was even less thrilled when the highway department renamed his stretch of the highway ‘State Road 333’! In 1987, he circulated a petition to restore the Route 66 signage from Tijeras Canyon to Moriarty. The following year, Audette organized a ‘Save Route 66’ event to raise money to pay for new Route 66 signs. This led to the forming of the New Mexico Route 66 Association and Bob became popular with Route 66 enthusiasts. Michael Wallis referred to him as a “guardian of the Mother Road”.

In 1992, Bob participated in the 66th Anniversary tour, driving his 1954 Chevy to Santa Monica, CA, where he met Bobby Troupe, who wrote the Route 66 song. The new Historic Route 66 signs he'd worked so hard to establish were being stolen, so Audette came up with the idea to mark the highway with stencils. He was a founding member of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce and his simple Route 66 design was selected for the official NM Route 66 license plates.

~Alan Carlson


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