Melvis and Santa join guests at annual Lions Club party

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2011

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — When “Melvis,” the well-known Elvis Presley impersonator, moved in close to one of his big fans, Theresa Munyon, the giggles quickly consumed them both.
What was so funny?
“I told him he smelled good,” Munyon said later, laughing again.
Well, that didn’t please Gary Steele of the Cleveland Lions Club, because Theresa is always telling him how good he smells. Theresa may be blind, but she has a discriminating nose and a winning personality that has led her to the presidency of the Denton Lions Club.
Munyon was among about 50 visually impaired guests Saturday at the annual Christmas Party sponsored by the Lions Clubs of Rowan County. The party participants went home with bags of fruit, gift cards and poinsettias donated once again by Rockwell Farms.
Phyllis Ohm served as head chef for an expansive Christmas meal, and special guests included Santa Claus — that was Robert Rummage in the red-and-white suit — and Melvis, who sat on laps, held hands and performed duets with seemingly everyone in the room.
It was not a tough crowd, just a thankful, happy one. DeWayne Walker and Melvis took no prisoners with their version of “Love Me Tender.”
Other special guests, who made the trip with Munyon, included Miss Denton, Madison Sigmon; and Little Miss Denton, Olivia Parker. They stayed busy, helping the Lions Club members serve the dinners and pass out the gifts.
Many of the Lions Club members provided the transportation to and from the party for their visually impaired friends. A major emphasis for the Lions, of course, is helping the blind and visually impaired, and members in each of the six clubs in Rowan County contribute $10 a member for the annual party.
They also take responsibility for different aspects of the event. The Cleveland Lions provide, for example, the bags of fruit, while Rockwell Lions help wrap and deliver the poinsettias and the Gold Hill Lions spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
For visually impaired friends who are homebound, the Lions made deliveries, too.
The Lions Clubs now active in Rowan County include Salisbury, Cleveland, Franklin-Ellis, Gold Hill, Rockwell and Mount Ulla.
It’s difficult to figure out exactly how long the Lions have been holding their Christmas party. It’s a long time. Bob Loeblein, a member of the Salisbury Lions Club for 54 years, guesses it goes back to the late 1940s or early 1950s.
For many years, the event was held at the old Yadkin Hotel. First Baptist Church has been the gathering place for about the last decade.
Leah Weatherby caught a ride to Saturday’s party with Loeblein.
“I like the people,” says Weatherby, who suffers from macular degeneration and hasn’t been able to drive for about 10 years.
“I also have one leg shorter than the other, and I’m 200 years old,” she laughs.
Weatherby has led quite a life. She was a photographer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1951-54. She also has sold real estate, managed a hotel and restaurant, worked as a loan officer, taught pre-school and worked in a college’s environmental science and forestry department.
“That was when you could get a job,” Weatherby said of the gold old days.
Melvis stopped by the table of Romona Davis and sat on her lap, while singing a love song.
“It only took me 50 years to get Elvis,” said the 51-year-old Davis.
Davis has battled ocular histoplasmosis off and on since the 1980s and now has to depend on disability. But her spirits are good.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of Saturday’s party.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.