Diving Lady swimming in Mesa once again

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

MESA, Ariz. -- An Arizona icon, Diving Lady, is once again plunging into her desert oasis in Mesa.

Diving Lady, built in 1960, made millions of dives at the Starlite Motel until she was torn down during a massive monsoon in 2010. Tuesday night, preservationists flipped the switch and turned her back on after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

Historic U.S. 60 starts in the Arizona desert and crisscrosses the entire nation to the east. It travels 2,600 miles, right past the U.S. gold supply at Fort Knox and dead ends at the Chesapeake Bay.

But a 78-foot stretch of steel and neon hanging above the old U.S. 60 Route in Mesa might just be the most famous part of the old road. In fact, the Diving Lady outside the Starlite Motel on Main Street once marked, roughly, the crossroads of U.S. highways 60, 70, 80 and 89.

"You knew you were getting home when you saw the Diving Lady," said Arlee Johnson, longtime Mesa resident.

The Diving Lady first splashed into her blue neon bath back in 1960. She was a bold statement for the Starlite Motel, announcing a rare desert amenity at the time: a swimming pool.

Not only that, but she was one of the only roadside attractions in the young Mesa community.

"When my husband and I came out here, we didn't have a whole lot of money so we would say, 'Well, let's go look at the Diving Lady,"' said longtime Mesa resident Ramona Zehm. "That was the big entertainment."

About 300 people were at the Starlite Motel Tuesday night to see Diving Lady return to her nightly routine -- a three-part plunge from the top of the motel sign. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith stood among classic cars from Diving Lady's heyday to flip the switch just after 7 p.m.

The Mesa Preservation Foundation paid $120,000 to bring her back to life. The foundation is still $10,000 short of its total donation goal to cover the entire cost.

"It's iconic and it is a celebration of the community's love for an inanimate object," said Vick Linoff, president of the Mesa Preservation Foundation. "Everybody calls it the Diving Lady. You don't speak of the sign as an it, you speak of it as a her or a she."

And now "she" is back -- the iconic blond in the pale blue one-piece bathing suit repeatedly dipping into a blue splash of neon lighting.
The swimming pool she once advertised has long since been filled in, but she nonetheless sits on her perch as a historic piece of Americana -- an oasis to millions.