Birth Name: Florence Martus
Born: August 7, 1869
Birthplace: Cockspur Island, Georgia
Died: February 8, 1943
As a child, Florence’s father was a lighthouse keeper, and she liked to wave to passing ships. He died when she was 17, and she moved with her brother, who also became a lighthouse keeper, to Elba Island, off the coast of Savannah. She continued to offer the friendly wave to all the ships that passed. She enjoyed it, and the sailors did too. (The story that she was waiting for a sailor to whom she was engaged is not true, according to her.) She would even rise in the night to wave to a passing ship, alerted to its presence by her dogs. She waved with a tablecloth or towel in the daytime and a lantern at night. The ships would return her salute with 3 blasts of the whistle and the sailors often waved back at her.
Florence was said to be a charming woman, intelligent and well-educated, with a love of cooking and a fondness for animals. She had friends both far and near who enjoyed her company.
She and her brother, George Washington Martus, acted on several occasions to save life near the lighthouse: once they rescued men from a burning fire by going after them on their little boat. Another time they rescued several men from a sinking boat during a hurricane. After 44 years on Elba Island, George and Florence retired to the mainland. By that time “the waving girl” was known and loved by maritimers around the world.
Sculpture Notes: “HER IMMORTALITY STEMS FROM HER FRIENDLY GREETING TO PASSING SHIPS, A WELCOME TO STRANGERS ENTERING THE PORT AND A FAREWELL TO WAVE THEM SAFELY ONWARD” is inscribed on the base of the statue.
Sculptor: FELIX DE WELDON, SC 1971
Installation Date: “Erected by the Altrusa Club, Savannah Georgia 1971”
Media: Statue is bronze
Location: Savannah, Georgia
Date of Photos: November 8, 2011