Famed St. Anthony napkin will now posthumously commemorate co-founder Kelleher

This is the commemorative napkin that depicts the 1967 meeting at the St. Anthony Club bar where plans for Southwest Airlines were made. (SBG photo)

SAN ANTONIO - The death of Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher Thursday left the staff at the St. Anthony Hotel in a bit of a quandary. and it all stems from a legendary napkin.

Since plans were well underway to produce a commemorative napkin saluting the birth of the airline at the legendary St. Anthony Club bar, Kelleher's death comes at a tricky time for the hotel.

"We were like how can that happen? But it did. and so it was kind of serendipitous and sad at the same time," said Debbie Gonzalez, the hotel's historian and senior sales manager.

The napkins will be available next week. They show the original diagram that led to the birth of the airline company. On that napkin, co-founder Collin King sketched a triangle with San Antonio, Houston and Dallas in the corners to help convince Kelleher the company could fly.

Dispelling the notion that the historic meeting and drawing are urban legends, Gonzalez said she interviewed Kelleher a few years ago for a book on the history of the hotel and he confirmed it.

"We asked 'was the famous napkin really a true thing' and he said 'absolutely,' " Gonzalez said. "I said 'is that the real napkin' and he said 'oh heck no, i had lots of napkins from the St. Anthony Club.'

"But the concept and the drawing - the triangle on the napkin - was absolutely true, and that's what he told us."

In addition to the napkin depicting the 1967 meeting, the hotel is also working on a new cocktail to recognize Kelleher's drink of choice, Wild Turkey.

Gonzalez also said the bar was the site for many other key meetings in San Antonio's history, inciuding the Hemisfair project and the San Antonio Spurs.

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