Music keeps father and son 'in touch' although miles apart

By Bob Robinson

   Roy Lewis, custodian at Elizabethton High School, keeps a smile on his face and a bounce in his gait, inspired by his son, Michael, an actor and opera singer who is drawing rave reviews internationally.
   Michael, who is fluent in German, French and Spanish, has been performing, professionally, since 1995.
   In six short years, he has played such leading roles as Marius in "Les Miserables," Franz Joseph in "Elisabeth" and Raoul in "Phantom of the Opera," where rehearsals are now underway on Broadway in New York for "Phantom of the Opera."
   He was bitten by the "performance bug" while a student at Hunter Elementary School and at T.A. Dugger Junior High School, where he played saxophone in the band.
   Michael began acting at age seven, playing Vinegar Boy at Oak Street Baptist Church, co-directed by Melanie Sparks, daughter of the late Chick Pless, music teacher at First Baptist Church.
   A graduate of Stetson University in Deland, Fla. and Boston, Mass., Conservatory of Music, Michael "has done it on his own," encouraged by his dad and mother, Joey.
   "Joey can do anything, include laying brick. I feel fortunate and blessed to have her," Roy proudly said of his wife of 34 years.
   Michael believes his success comes from the love and support of his parents. "Without you, where would I be?" he wrote on the cover of the "Les Miserables" program he sent to his parents.
   Each time Michael returns to Elizabethton for a visit with his mother and dad, he always makes them go rafting with him on the Watauga and Nolichuckey rivers.
   Fond memories are found along the river, especially as they float past the Old Chuckey Trading Post near Embreeville, where Michael's great-uncle, Noah, operated the only Exxon Station in the area.
   It is a trip which seems to refresh the body, mind and soul, blessed by the serene beauty of Mother Nature at its best.
   Roy, a welder by trade, moved to Elizabethton from Old Butler before enlisting in the U.S. Navy.
   In 1973, while living in California, he was persuaded by his brother, Paul, whom he had not seen in 22 years, to return to Elizabethton.
   In 1996, Roy and Joey returned to Elizabethton from Titusville, Fla., and he joined the Elizabethton High School custodial staff.
   Prior to that, the U.S. Navy veteran worked at General Electric, Rohr Aircraft, Rocketdyne, North American Aviation, Howard Hughes Tool Co., Aerojet General, Lockheed Corp., Great Lakes Research Council and McDonnell Douglas.
   Roy has met such notables as Howard Hughes, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra.
   "I enjoy working with the students and teachers at Elizabethton High School. Ed Alexander (principal) is doing an excellent job. He works with students very well," he said.
   What advice do you have for young people who desire to be successful in life?
   "Go for it all the way. Excel in school. By the 10th grade, know what you want to do. A trade is just as good as being a manager at a large corporation," according to Roy, who believes opera performers, welders and auto mechanics will always be needed in our society.