Jae C. Hong/AP

The creator of the iconic Vegas welcome sign passed away on Sunday

April 22, 2015 08:50 AM

Betty Willis, who was credited with designing the now-iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, died on Sunday. She was 91.

Willis died on Sunday in her Overton, Nevada, home according to an obituary on the Virgin Valley & Moapa Valley Mortuaries website. Her cause of death has not yet been released.

Willis was the designer of the neon “Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, which was erected in 1959. The sign, which sits south of the Las Vegas strip and in a middle median on Las Vegas Boulevard, has since become the de facto symbol of the gambling destination.

The sign’s unique diamond shape and loud colors have been emulated on Vegas souvenirs since its installation. Willis’ sign was even added to the National Register of Historic places in 2009.

“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 in a statement, according to NBC News. “There is probably no bigger Las Vegas icon than that sign.”

Willis was born in Overton in 1923 and eventually worked as a commercial artist in Los Angeles, California, before returning to Nevada. Once in Las Vegas, she worked for neon sign companies, which led to the eventual design of her crowning work. Willis also designed neon signs for other Vegas hot spots, including the Moulin Rouge casino and the Blue Angel motel, before moving back to Overton.

According to her obituary, Willis was also an avid swimmer well into her late age.

She leaves behind a daughter, granddaughter, grandson and one great-granddaughter.

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