Friends and family from near and far gathered on Saturday, Jan. 29 to celebrate Louis Roney’s 90 years of life. For the last 22 years, the Winter Park/Maitland Observer has had the pleasure of carrying a column penned by Louis. To hear Louis tell it, he says he never set out to become an author. But look back at his life and it becomes clear that a stint at the typewriter was inevitable.
Raised in Winter Park, Louis was the captain of the 1938 Winter Park High School football team. Roney then went on to Harvard where he was dorm-mates and lifelong friends with Sloan Wilson — author of “Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” — and studied creative writing under leading contemporary authors such as Ernest Hemingway. During a respite from school, he hitchhiked across America with William Emerson, who later became editor-in-chief of The Saturday Evening Post. A cousin of James Dickey, Roney jokes that fortunately he and Emerson’s trip was nothing like his cousin’s well-known novel and movie “Deliverance”.
While writing may have surrounded Louis, singing has always consumed him. Following a heralded opera career, Roney returned to Winter Park and joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida, where he developed a premier vocal and singing program. As a philanthropic innovator, Louis and his beloved wife, Joy, founded the Festival of Orchestras.
His music and singing credentials are too numerous to mention and already known by many, which is why one partygoer put it, “I am the last guy you want singing for a musical impresario such as Louis.” But with his love of music in mind, an eclectic mix of high school athletes, politicians, civic and business leaders did their best to serenade Roney with the obligatory “Happy birthday to you”. The revelers were then treated to a series of performances from Christie Hudson, Kathryn Kilger and David Martin — all accompanied by Lynn Peghiny on the piano.
Roney, whose singing days are behind him, says he plans to continue his writing through his Observer column “Play On”. And that’s music to our ears, as we look forward to many years to come. Happy 90th birthday, Louis!