Historic sign designer for “Sin City” dies

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -{April 21, 2015}    The woman who came up with the neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to “fabulous Las Vegas” since 1959 has died.

Betty Willis, credited with designing the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, died in her Overton, Nevada, home Sunday.

The 91-year-old artist’s often-copied sign sits in a median in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Strip.

“It’s the most recognizable icon in the world,” said Danielle Kelly, executive director of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the signs of Sin City’s past are retired and on display.

“The fact that everyone loves that sign and its design after all these years is a testament to Betty’s talents,” Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. “There is probably no bigger Las Vegas icon than that sign.” In 2009, the sign was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Willis, born in 1923 in the small town of Overton northeast of Las Vegas, worked as a commercial artist in Los Angeles before returning to Las Vegas, where she worked for sign companies and designed the famous diamond-shaped beacon of flashing lights.