Elaine Carr has beautiful feet, thanks to a 46-year-old dream and a billboard at one of Merced's busiest intersections.
More on that in a minute.
Carr, a 71-year-old Merced grandmother, saved up for months to buy six months of display time on the 10-by-24-foot billboard on the southbound side of Santa Fe Drive near Highway 59. Since she doesn't attend a church, she considers the cost of the billboard her tithe — or the part of her income she gives back to God.
The billboard is loud and clear, asking passersby in bold, bright colors: "Where are you going?" It lists 16 Bible passages that Carr hopes people will write down and study later.
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That's where her feet come in. One of her favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 52:7 — which isn't listed on the billboard — proclaims: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news."
The billboard is her good news. It's the ultimate pedicure. "That Scripture always stuck in my heart. One day, I'll have beautiful feet," she said.
The billboard started out as a notion Carr conjured while driving along 16th Street in the mid-1960s. She saw a big sign where Home Depot now stands and decided it would be an ideal location for a sign with Bible verses.
When she contacted sign companies about the location nearly five decades later, the cost was more than she could afford. So, after a search of locations within her price range, she chose the Santa Fe billboard. Forty-six years and a box of Crayola colored pencils later, she saw her dream become reality Sept. 26.
"I was so excited watching the guy put it up," she said, adding that the man waved her over when he was finished and started asking questions about her message and her intent, which is exactly the reaction she wants.
"The Lord is our teacher, the Bible is our textbook and we are his students," she said. "It's as simple as that."
Carr, a mother of four and grandmother of nine, trained as an artist at a community college in Eugene, Ore. She's lived in Merced for nearly 50 years, moving here in 1962, when her ex-husband was stationed at Castle Air Force Base. She always wanted to work as an art teacher, and she served as the go-to artist for the Pentecostal congregation she formerly attended.
"I'm just a child of God and I study the word. The Lord gave me talent to draw and so I use it for him," she said.
Whether Carr has beautiful feet is between her and God — but it's clear that she has a passionate soul.
Online editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.