Robert Frank Lays was born July 7, 1928 to James E Lays and Cora A Lays of Rochester, New York. He married the woman of his life for 61 plus years, Martha Marie Kirk, on June 16, 1951 and raised five children in a loving family. He graduated from SUNY Cortland, gained a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Syracuse University and his PHD from the University of Denver. For over 40 years he worked in the field of Special Education for the school district of the City of Rochester. He passed away quietly on the morning of February 17, 2013. Surviving Bob is his wife Martha, daughters Lewessa Dibattista of Lynchburg Virginia, Mary Lou Wright of Tucson, Arizona, sons Robert Frederic (Bob), Martin and Rick, all of the Pikes Peak region. He also leaves behind fourteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
People in the Pikes Peak region will best remember Bob from his ownership of The Palace Hotel in Cripple Creek. The Lays family first opened the refurbished Palace the summer of 1976 and operated the business for over 25 years. During those years, Bob would take a back seat to his children for the day to day operations of the hotel, dinner theater, restaurant, and later casino. He could often be seen sweeping or shoveling off the front walkway, manning the front desk, working on various projects within the hotel, and cheering on the performers of the Palace Vaudeville. His zest and love for music brought many favorite bluegrass bands to the stage of the Palace including “A Grain of Salt”, a regional favorite for years. He was never too busy to stop and chat with anyone and had forged great friendships with all those he met.
While in Cripple Creek, nothing gave Bob more pleasure than to entertain out of town guests. Visitors would get the grand tour of the mining district via Bob and Martha’s big white 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible complete with the latest in 8-track technology. Trips to the Fortune Club in Victor were commonplace for another favorite past-time, ice cream (particularly the “Carlton Miracle”). You might also catch him making a run to the Cripple Creek dump in “Old Blue”, a 1949 Chevy pickup acquired from the likes of Al Snare. Bob also made sure his 1930 Ford Model A pickup truck made it into each Donkey Derby Days and Gold Rush Days parade along with the Cadillac, with the Palace Hotel Vaudeville performers adorning his classic vehicles.
The Lays family sold the Palace Hotel in 2002 leaving many fond memories behind. One thing is for certain, the more recent history of Cripple Creek would not have been the same without the influence of Bob and Martha Lays.