Mural honors football player's mom

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

A mural painted Sunday on the 34th Street wall honors Mary Lakes, mother of University of Florida safety Reggie Nelson.

Lakes, 46, died Dec. 21 after a long battle with cancer. Nelson, his Gator teammates and members of the team's coaching staff attended Lakes' funeral Saturday in Melbourne.

Morgan Greene said she painted the mural for Nelson as he deals with his mother's death while preparing for the national championship game.

"I hope it helps him get through this hard time," said Greene, 20, a computer animation major at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota.

Greene and two other Gator die-hards painted the mural in drizzly conditions Sunday, planning to continue into the night. Greene's mother, Cathy Wyckoff of Ocala, said they wanted to complete the mural so Nelson could see it before he left with the team Tuesday for pre-game practices in Arizona.

Wyckoff said they feared they would break NCAA rules by sending flowers to the funeral and opted instead for a visual tribute. The mural includes spaces left blank on either side, allowing members of the public to write messages.

"People can say something and it's not going to be a violation," Wyckoff said.

The mural depicts Lakes looking over Nelson with the words, "Reggie you will always be the wind beneath her wings. Miss Mary: A loving mom and a great Gator. You will never be forgotten by the Gator nation!"

Lakes was a custodial worker at Central Middle School in west Melbourne who was affectionately known as "Miss Mary." She had battled breast cancer since 2003 and died just hours after Nelson made it home from UF's final pre-Christmas practice.

Nelson was a consensus All-American whose six interceptions ranked third in the Southeastern Conference. The mural depicts his interception in the Alabama game, in which he returned 70 yards for a touchdown in the Gators' 28-13 victory.

Wyckoff said her family members have always been Gator die-hards, attending as many games as possible. The mural is meant to honor the importance of Lakes in Nelson's life, Wyckoff said.

"We think she's going to continue to inspire him," she said.

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