Calendar captures patriotism of Chair City
When Matthew Lewis retired from the Washington Post after a 25-year career, the Pulitzer Prize winner came to Thomasville and started taking pictures of the Chair City.
Lewis, a third generation photographer who has captured the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more than a handful of U.S. presidents, fell in love with Thomasville's patriotism and humanitarianism. He has roamed the sidelines at Cushwa Stadium and often can be seen at various events throughout the year, wearing his customary ball cap and matching brown vest.
"What I enjoy most is seeing people from all over the Earth," Lewis said. "This touches me. This moves me."
Lewis will share images of Thomasville's patriotism as seen through his camera's eye. He is putting the finishing touches on "The Veterans Keepsake Calendar," an 80-page photo essay which documents all that is red, white and blue about Thomasville.
The calendar is a two year project-in-the-making that is expected to be ready for the public by Veteran's Day. Proceeds from the endeavor will benefit the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury and the Thomasville Memorial Day Committee.
"We just give a little history in what we hope is a keepsake calendar of Thomasville," said Lewis. "Everything in here is Thomasville. Everybody is proud of it."
Starting at last year's 25th annual Memorial Day Parade, Lewis and his son Kevin began to document Chair City people, places and events. The images capture pride, sacrifice, honor and courage. Matthew and Kevin Lewis chronicle Thomasville's commitment to its veterans, not only during the parade but in special, subtle ceremonies leading up to Memorial Day. Lewis goes inside Hillside Baptist Church as family members of fallen soldiers are honored in a solemn Sunday ceremony.
"Those pictures just spoke volumes," Lewis said. "The Memorial Day parade is all about the families. That's what I tried to capture. I think it's an exciting story-telling book."
Once the calendar opens to Day One, Thomasville takes center stage. The keepsake is filled with the faces of local veterans like Gen. Hubert Leonard, Regan Curry, Eddie White and Leon Wessell. Matthew and Kevin Lewis follow honorary guests of the parade up Salem Street to an awaiting crowd anxious to show their appreciation for service to country.
"My motivation to do the book was to give back to the people of Thomasville," Lewis said. "Pictures tell a story. When I think of Medal of Honor recipients standing in front of the Big Chair or Gen. George Patton's grandson saying Thomasville 'raised the bar' as far as patriotism is concerned, that moves me. When we were done, we said 'this is it. This is Thomasville.'"
Lewis' photo essay also chronicles Thomasville's recognition as an "All-America City," and the contributions to everyday life of locals like Nat Walker, Warren King and Bill Mills. Robin Buchanan, a graphic artist and employee at the Thomasville Public Library, designed the calendar with an array of colors.
Lewis said 1,000 copies of the calendar will be available to the public for $20 each. Initial copies will be available this weekend at Novant Health Foundation Thomasville's Medical Center’s "An Evening of Music," at the Tom A. Finch Auditorium. The keepsake also can be purchased at the Thomasville Public Library and will be on hand at the Veterans Day memorial ceremony at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center at 11:11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.