Lexington loses historic bar and its owner on same day

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LEXINGTON, Mo. -- Residents in the town of Lexington, Missouri are mourning the loss of a pillar of the community and a piece of main street history. The building that housed Riley's Pub crumbled overnight, within hours, the pub's owner, Katherine VanAmburg, passed away.

Riley's Pub stood on Main street since the late 1800's. It was part of the historic and somewhat infamous 'Block 42', back in the day, there were 42 saloons and one church.
In more recent history, the image changed to a more family friendly atmosphere. When it collapsed Thursday morning, it took a lot of memories.

"It was like the TV show 'Cheers', you walked in and everybody would say 'come on in, get a seat.' Katherine would go around and visit with everyone." explained Georgia Brown, a longtime friend of VanAmburg's.

Ted Martin brought his two kids to the site to watch the last few part of the building come down. As a resident since the mid 1980's, he's very familiar with Riley's. He loved the atmosphere and said it was "the" place to meet before and after events.

"When they had the St. Patrick's Day parade that was kind of the place to go when they were done, gonna be missed." said Martin.

The building isn't the only piece of history Lexington lost. Katherine VanAmburg's roots are deeply embedded in Lexington. She was also a fixture at the pub.

"She even had a little booklet of the menu, but she had the history of the pub and of Lexington in it, and she had a little blurb about each one of the workers." explained Brown.

The lost of both the building and VanAmburg with in such a short time was described as astonishing and eerie, but Brown said it was almost fitting.

"I'm taking it with me, and she was gone and it was gone."

The pub hasn't been operational since early summer. A small wall collapse forced it to close, but the the plan was to repair and reopen. However, health and history got the better of the two. A stained glass window that hung above the front door will be salvaged to honor both.

"Saving that old window is something that we want to put and preserve and maybe put in another pub, a Riley's Pub at another time." said Brown.

A private family service is planned for Friday afternoon. Friends hope to put together a "celebration of life" to honor her, soon.

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