An iconic blonde in blue swimsuit stands at the heart of Mesa's identity. The 78 foot tall neon light lady lit up the Starlite Motel. Owners Elmo and Richard Kaesler added the sign--now a classic piece of roadside American architecture from the 1960s--in an effort entice passersby to stay and visit the hotel pool. She's lasted for more than half a century, her three-part plunge embedding itself into the community’s memory and hearts. This sign became more than just a symbol for an oasis in the desert, but a literal sign of home for Mesa residents traveling back into town.
In October of 2010 the Diving Lady was tragically destroyed in a storm. Many feared the damage would be irreparable, but the Mesa Preservation Foundation rose to the challenge of restoring and reviving the animated vintage sign. The restoration project was designed to maintain the original metal integrity of the sign utilizing time-consuming methods, while forgoing using less expensive materials. Although a more tenuous process, the dedication to preservation mattered to those involved, and more importantly, to the public who admired the Mesa neon treasure.
The restoration of this staple relied upon more than just tender love and care. Finances were a significant component to the project, with the expected cost of restoring the sign changing significantly from the start to the completion of the endeavor. The East Valley community rallied and raised funds for the project, yet the recession was at the forefront of the struggle to meet the financial goal. Ultimately, through the hard work of the community, neon artist Larry Graham, the Mesa Preservation Foundation, and countless travelers and residences alike, the Diving Lady now continues her nightly plunge on East Main Street.