Vegas Loses Two Neon Legends in the Same Weekend

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vegas welcome sign
Photo by Ashtyn Renee.

Vegas Loses Two Legends

As many of you know I live in Las Vegas. I moved here when I was 11 years old and have grown up in this city. Over the years I have developed a love/hate relationship with Vegas, but one of the things that fascinates me is the city’s history.

If you every catch me at an event somewhere and want to get me talking just ask me about Vegas history. I know more than most and can passionately go on and on about it. Arguably one of the most historic icons of the city is its famous “Welcome” sign.

The sign was designed by a local woman named Betty Willis in 1959. After designing the sign, Ms. Willis decided it was her gift to the city and never trademarked the design. As a result of this, the design is in the public domain and is freely used on souvenirs and many other things.

This past weekend Betty Willis passed away at her home in Overton, Nevada at the age of 91. Ironically, another neon legend passed away this past weekend as well. Brian Leming who designed the signs at the Stardust, Barbary Coast among others also passed away. The two were reportedly good friends.

Neon is such a huge part of the history of this city and while it doesn’t exist in many places anymore it really helped shape the city’s iconic image. Think back to the first time you heard or saw something about Las Vegas. No doubt one of these iconic designs was part of it.

Despite the fact that we lost these two legends this past weekend I am so glad that their work continues to be preserved by the city in the Neon Museum and elsewhere. You can read more about both of these iconic Nevadans and their work here.


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