Bob Lewis dressed in red polo shirt with white Redding Home logo on shirt.
Bob Lewis, resident of the Veterans Home of California-Redding.

REDDING – As residents mulled about at the Veterans Home of California-Redding one recent day, Bob Lewis broke into song.

It’s something Lewis does often, to the joy of the Home’s staff, veterans, and their spouses. Some might think they are hearing him sing for the very first time. They might be wrong.

Before Lewis came to the Redding Home in 2016, the 93-year-old Army veteran sang background vocals in 27 Hollywood films spanning more than two decades, including an on-screen role in 2007 in “License to Wed,” starring the late Robin Williams.

His movie roster includes some well-known titles: “Star Trek VI,” “Grand Canyon,” “Leap of Faith,” “Home Alone 2,” “Jurassic Park,” “Twister,” “Air Force One,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Mars Attacks,” and “The Wild, Wild West” among them.

Yet, his resume might be topped only by one other fact in his life and perhaps a Guinness World Record-worthy one at that.

Formal portrait of 30-person Anaheim Choraleers. Men dressed in black tuxedos, women in floor length white gowns.
Bob and his three musical wives in the Anaheim Choraleers. Photo taken in 1968.

Lewis was married three times: all three wives sang with him as members of the Anaheim Choraleers, all at the same time, and all pictured in a 1968 photo of the group. His first marriage to Carolyn ended after 19 years in 1974. He remarried in 1977 to Flora, who passed in 2006. He then married Fran in 2010, and she died in 2015.

“Three wives, and all in the Choraleers,” Lewis mused. That photo hangs in his room at the Redding Home, with arrows identifying all three women and himself.

A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Lewis graduated from college in Minnesota in 1952. His draft card arrived, and the Army sent him to counterintelligence school in Maryland, with expectations of stationing him in Munich, West Germany, during the Cold War. Instead, when the Korean War ended in 1953, the Army sent him to perform background checks on security personnel in San Francisco.

Bob Lewis in uniform standing in front of a cannon.
Bob sent to Arkansas for basic training.

That wasn’t his only performance duty. Always a singer, and blessed with a deep baritone-bass voice that got better with age, he gravitated toward opera.

“I joined a music group and did some solo work in my free time,” Lewis said.

When he left the Army, he spent a semester at then-San Francisco State College, honing his opera skills. One classmate simply didn’t possess the voice for opera, Lewis recalled. “An 18-year-old named Johnny Mathis,” Lewis said. As it turned out, chances were that he’d do well anyway. “There were 15 people in the class, and he became the most famous out of that class.”

While in San Francisco, Lewis also became friends with Pat Paulsen, a comedian who found fame on the “Smothers Brothers” television show, and ran satirically for president of the United States in 1968.

Lewis, meanwhile, said he turned down an offer to try out with famed bandleader Stan Kenton. It simply wasn’t what he wanted to do, because the band’s constant travel stood in the way of the family life he wanted.

Married in 1955 to Carolyn, he worked as an insurance underwriter for Liberty Mutual, which soon sent him to Southern California to become an accountant. He refused a transfer to Boston and instead joined Lockheed in Burbank, where he worked in customs for materials imported from Canada and overseas.

Lewis retired at age 62 in 1991, when Lockheed closed the Burbank office. It simply gave him more time to sing, and he was fine with that.

“All of this time I’d been singing in churches,” he said. He performed in synagogues and Christian churches, and with the Anaheim Choraleers. “I did that stuff for 50 years. I was retired from Lockheed. What else was I going to do?”

As a matter of fact. …

“One of the gals I sang with said they had a new (music director) in the Los Angeles Master Chorale,” Lewis said. “Paul Salamunovich took a liking to me. One day, he asked if I have ever done any movie work.”

Salamunovich, very well-connected in Hollywood, set Lewis up with his first movie gig in 1991—“Star Trek VI.” The filming already completed, he went to a studio to record his part.

“I had to sing in Klingon,” Lewis said. “I made $500.”

Then came “Grand Canyon,” more voice work and another $500. The pay from those first two gigs, both in 1991, covered the $1,000 he needed for his Screen Actors Guild membership.

Lewis and others sang the traditional New Year’s Eve song “Auld Lang Syne” – albeit emulating drunks – in the opening scene of “Hero,” starring Dustin Hoffmann. It was the first of four movies he performed in 1992. His deep voice and cheery demeanor gave him his many movie opportunities, he said.

“There aren’t many really low, low basses,” Lewis said. “Because I was a low bass, I was able to get lots of jobs. If you know people, they like you, you’re on time, and don’t act like a diva, you can get lots of jobs.”

He still receives occasional residual checks ranging from $40 to $200, based upon where the movies are shown and how often.

Singing ultimately took him on stage during the 1993 Grammy Awards, as well as all across the country and to Europe.

Some “performances” rose above others. He once went to see an old friend who had been a big baseball fan until Alzheimer’s disease left him with dramatic memory loss, and mostly unresponsive, Lewis said. The visit and a song brought perhaps one of the friend’s last coherent moments of joy.

“I sang, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and his eyes opened up,” Lewis said. “It was the first reaction (his wife) had seen in a while.”

After wife Fran passed in 2015, Lewis moved to Redding to be closer to family. He continued to sing at churches, including Grace Baptist in Redding, where he recorded a CD in 2021. And, he leads the veterans in military songs and other favorites at the Veterans Home in Redding.

His songs come from the heart, no matter the song, no matter the venue.

“It’s a fantastic feeling – something I cannot describe,” Lewis said of performing. “I can never tell you what that feeling is in a way that would mean anything.”

Instead, he simply belts out another, letting the joy on the faces of the veterans, their spouses, and the staff say it for him.


  1. Michael Van Cleemput · · Reply

    It is my pleasure and benefit to be your friend. I am grateful that you see the beauty in people who come into your domain. Of course, your singing is infectious…getting the rest of us to sing along. Thank you for your service.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyle Huntley Chaplain · · Reply

    Bob is always ready to use His God given talent to up lift most any occasion with His very joyful and always pleasant demeanor.


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