If you phone Nita McFarlin and get her voicemail, you will be greeted by her enthusiastic message: “Rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made.” This verse from Psalm 118 sums up her attitude about life – be glad and make each day count.
When I first met Nita, she was wearing a big joyous smile and one of her signature silk flower corsages. Her joy is contagious and quite remarkable in light of recent circumstances. Her sweet husband of 62 years, Wayne, the love of her life, died on January 3rd after a six-month illness. And yet, even in her grief, she cannot contain her joy for living.
Nita was an honor student at Fayetteville High School in the spring of 1949 when she met Wayne. It was love at first sight and, after a brief courtship, the two ran off and eloped. Nita was just 14 and Wayne was 18! They continued to live in the area and Wayne found work in construction and later as a long-distance truck driver. During these years, Nita was busy rearing their four children, Mike, Tony, Neal and Michelle.
As a child, Nita developed a love of painting. At the age of 12, she took the bus from Fayetteville to Atlanta to take art lessons at the High Museum. During her years as a stay-at-home mom, she refined her artistic skills, experimenting and teaching herself. She continued to paint even as she took the position of Secretary to the Fairburn City Manager – a job she held from 1977 – 1992.
After retiring from the City of Fairburn, she began volunteering as an art instructor at Christian City’s assisted living complex and was soon offered employment as an exercise and art instructor. During these years, Nita used her creativity to make a visual impact in the community. She cartooned for local newspapers, wrote children’s books, painted outside murals and designed historical exhibits.
What was the inspiration for the historical artwork you have painted of events that have taken place in Fayette County?
In the 1980s, I recall visiting local museums and discovering there was very little visual history available about our community – few photographs or paintings of important local historical events, including the Civil War. It became my mission to recreate these events through my artwork. I wanted to leave a legacy through my paintings which depict the history of our area so young people would know what has taken place here. I spent hours researching history books, reading old letters and viewing the few available photographs to get the inspiration for my historical art.
You have won many awards and contests for your creative designs. What are some of the highlights?
In 1999, I was a finalist in the Ms. Senior Georgia Pageant and used my historical artwork as my “talent.” My motto for the pageant was, “if you don’t know where you have been, you don’t know where you are going.”
In 2002, Fayetteville hosted a contest to choose a design for the new city flag. I submitted the winning design inspired by Fayetteville’s namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Frenchman who fought alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War. I chose the colors of red, white and blue because these colors appear in our flag as well as the French flag. I included a likeness of the city clock tower along with the city slogan, “A History with a Future.”
I’ve entered artwork in a national Christmas card competition and won twice, having my designs turned into Christmas cards. I’ve created two commemorative Christmas ornaments that are sold as a fundraiser for the Holliday Dorsey Fife Museum in Fayetteville. I’ve also had some of my paintings selected to appear in the movie A Joyful Noise that was filmed here in Fayette County.
In 2008 I fulfilled one of my life goals by writing and illustrating a local history pictorial called Footprints in Georgia’s Red Clay. Sections of the book are dedicated to the Civil War, the Marquis de Lafayette, Margaret Mitchell and her ties to Fayette County and to “Doc” Holliday. Proceeds from the book also go to the Holliday Dorsey Fife Museum.
What do you want to share with people about your life perspective?
Money has never been my goal. My goal has been to share the talents God has given me. We were put on this earth for a reason. We are not supposed to waste our time or say, “wait until next year.” We should just do it now. We are God’s tools and are to use the talents God has given us to make the most of our time here. Everybody can do something to touch other people and make their lives better. I now have 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren and hope they will better understand the historical significance of our area through my artwork.