- November 2, 2017
Louis Roney, along with other distinguished Floridians, will be honored at the Florida Heritage Month awards at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, at the Florida State Conference Center in Tallahassee. The event is free and open to the public.
For nearly half a century Louis Roney was known around the world for his operatic voice. After a lifetime spent making music all over the world, Roney, 91, will be officially called famous, entering the Florida Artists Hall of Fame on March 21.
It didn’t take much of a movement to see him nominated for the award. The longtime Winter Park resident already had some very powerful friends. Speaking at the podium of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 24, Rep. John Mica did all the talking for him.
“He and his career have had a deep and profound impact on our community, state and nation,” Mica said.
And that impact was heard around the world, in opera houses as near as Orlando and as far as Vienna. He toured Europe playing Faust for Monaco’s Prince Rainier, and served as the first American tenor in the history of Italy’s largest opera festival.
But while he toured the world serving as an American ambassador in opera, he said he never forgot his hometown.
“My memories of Winter Park, having grown up in this little town, which it was when I graduated from grammar school in ’32 … I spent many happy years here, which I did not forget when I was in the South Pacific on a warship,” Roney said. “I did not forget it when I was in Europe singing … that Winter Park was waiting here for me to come back some day.”
It was Winter Park’s charm that had lured his wife, Joy, into a new home that would soon be the duo’s base for starting the Orlando Celebrity Concert Association (now known as the Orlando Festival of Orchestras) and teaching music to local students.
“I met Joy in New York…and when we came down here on our honeymoon she fell in love with it,” Roney said. “We looked around a bit, and the next day we bought a house on a lake.”
This would be their home for the rest of their lives, Roney said. They established a scholarship fund for student singers. He taught as distinguished professor of music for 19 years at the University of Central Florida, even as he continued to win praise for his voice.
Monday afternoon, March 12, the accolades kept coming for Roney, who was given an official Louis Roney Day in Winter Park to honor his achievements.
As usual, Roney’s fame as a singer, actor, writer and teacher preceded him to the podium at the Rachel Murrah Civic Center.
“If you read his column in the Observer you know he’s a very humble man,” Mayor Ken Bradley said jokingly.
Roney’s column, Play On!, has been publishing for 31 years. It’s never missed a week, Roney said.
As he has become so fond of doing, he recounted tales of his life in Winter Park and abroad, helping Winter Park High School’s football team to some of the first of its 500 wins as its captain, then on to Harvard University and to war in the Navy. But his most famous achievements soared through opera houses worldwide.
“Thank you so much for blessing our city with so many good things,” Bradley said.