Inspiration for ‘nurse’ in Darlington mural dies at 95
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The woman who served as the model for the nurse in Blue Sky’s famous mural of Darlington circa 1939 has died at age 95, according to her obituary and her friends. Eleanor Broce Mays of Florence died Dec. 17. Her obituary, posted on the website of Cain-Calcutt Funeral Home of Florence, says: “Eleanor is the health care worker who is depicted on the large mural painted in downtown Darlington. The artist captured her perfectly in her white uniform.” Columbia artist Blue Sky painted the 20-foot-high, 144-foot-long mural in 1985. The figure of the nurse is on the right, next to the flagpole, near the parked motorcycle. Mays’ obituary says she moved from Tennessee to Darlington around 1968, and worked for Bethea Baptist Home, now the Bethea Retirement Community, for 20 years until she retired at 70 in 1995. She is survived by two children, seven grandchildren, two siblings, 17 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. Lynn Sky, Blue Sky’s wife and agent, told the News & Press in an e-mail: “I checked with Blue and he said he was pretty sure that was her, as this question has come up before.” In an e-mail exchange with the newspaper earlier this year, Lynn Sky said the artist is aware of how badly the mural has faded and flaked from sun and rain over the past 35 years, but said “it really can’t be saved” because the wall it’s painted on is also degrading. Mays’ pastor, Chad Costello of Eastside Christian Church in Florence, said that Mays had described to him how she liked to watch Blue Sky work during the long period he was doing the mural. “She was an artist, a musician,” Costello said. “She would walk by to see him working.” At some point, Costello said, Blue Sky asked Mays if she would be a model for one of the characters in the mural. She was honored, Costello said. Several people have posted comments on the News & Press’ Facebook page saying that a Darlington woman named Dot Johnson was the inspiration for the nurse character in the mural. “No matter what anyone says, that’s Dot on that mural to me,” one person wrote.