[Photo courtesy of Spanish Valley Mortuary]

When longtime Moab residents come into Milt’s Stop & Eat these days, they still expect the same quality of service they received the first time they walked through the door decades ago.

Co-owner Danelle Ballengee sees those expectations as a testament to the legacy and enduring popularity of Milt’s founder Milton Galbraith, who passed away last month.

“He definitely made an impact on all of the old timers who come in,” she said. “They want us to have it like he had it.”

“He’s always going to be remembered for the restaurant,” she added.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison looked back on Galbraith as a landmark of the community, a fantastic cook and a wonderful person, to boot.

“He was an icon,” Sakrison said. “He made the best breakfasts and the best chili cheeseburgers ever.”

Galbraith was born in Burlington, Iowa on Oct. 4, 1925. As a young man, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1951, he married Audrey McKasson in Burlington, and three years later, the couple moved to Moab during the uranium mining boom. Milt’s Stop N’ Eat opened on Labor Day of that same year.

At the time, the restaurant was located along Moab’s main drag. Although Main Street later shifted to its current location along U.S. Highway 191, diners continued to flock to Milt’s for its delicious hamburgers, homemade fries and chili and root beer floats.

Sakrison has fond memories of the rare occasions when his grandfather took him to Milt’s for breakfasts.

“It was always a special treat – it wasn’t an everyday occurrence,” he said.

Sakrison recalled that Galbraith was modest by nature. But he had a huge impact on the community, both as a businessman and as a longtime member of fraternal organizations, including the Masonic Lodge #30, Shriners El Kalah Temple, American Legion Post 54 and the Elks Lodge. He was also actively involved with the Community Church of Moab.

“He was very humble, yet he was very influential,” Sakrison said.

Galbraith sold the business to John and Sonia Sensenbrenner in 1978, and after a succession of owners, it became the oldest continuously operating restaurant in town about 15 years ago.

John Sensenbrenner said he never knew Galbraith very well, but he was struck by Galbraith’s commitment to his work.

“He was very precise about what he did,” he said. “Everything he did was very carefully done and very carefully measured.”

According to Sensenbrenner, Galbraith always seemed to be on the move.

“He impressed me as a very busy man,” he said.

That was especially true during the early uranium boom years, when the family lived in a trailer on the property and the restaurant was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Milt’s soon built up a clientele that included both miners and Hollywood legends, including John Wayne. Robert Duvall and Jack Palance were among the many other famous faces who later dropped by over the years for a quick bite to eat.

Eventually, Ballengee and BC Laprade took over the business in 2007, and although they’ve updated the menu, the atmosphere inside the restaurant hasn’t changed. It still has the same open grill, vinyl-covered stools and Formica countertops that greeted patrons 60 years ago, and Ballengee said that she and Laprade will continue the traditions that Galbraith established.

“He made it just right in 1954,” Ballengee said.

Community pays tribute to Milt’s Stop & Eat founder