MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - It's been nearly 60 years since she was crowned Miss America,
but if you ask close friend Carolyn Crayton she'll tell you Neva Jane Langley Fickling's sparkle never faded.
In 1970 Lee Crayton and his wife Carolyn were deciding on a big life change, and it all started with a drive down Ingleside Avenue.
"We saw the beauty of those trees, oh we fell in love with Macon, and that helped make the decision to move to Macon," says Crayton.
She's talking about Yoshino Cherry Trees. Crayton says that's how a friendship grew between her family and the Fickling's. That's also how a bond blossomed between herself and Neva Fickling.
"You just can't imagine how hard it is to give her up," says Crayton.
Fickling passed away on Sunday November 18th in the early morning. Crayton says she had been battling cancer for a year and a half.
"We all had hope for the cure," says Crayton.
More than forty years of memories blur together, but Crayton says it was her friend's pure beauty inside and out that will always be remembered.
"She entered the room and it was electrifying...She had god given talent and beauty and love she shared that," says Crayton.
On top of her crown, Neva's fingers won her the talent award for her piano performance in the 1953 Miss America pageant.
Mercer music professor Ian Altman says her contribution to Macon and Mercer's music programs will never be forgotten.
"Anyone who plays here that knew of her will always think thank you so much for a wonderful performing space," says Altman.
It was her talent that earned her world-wide recognition, but Crayton says it was Neva's heart that truly earned her that title.
"She needed no introduction, she was so Miss America... I've heard her say I was Miss America in 1953, but let me tell you she was always Miss America," says Crayton.
A celebration of life service for Ms. Fickling is set for Tuesday 2 pm at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church.