Caldwell was an inspiration

Staff Writer

Melvin Caldwell, 70, a beloved member of the Newton community, passed away on Tuesday, April 21. Throughout his adulthood, he did things that helped better the world around him.

From serving in the Navy, to volunteering for his community, he was an inspiration. Especially in the 1990’s, Caldwell played a key roll in the restoration of Downtown Newton.

Caldwell’s friend, Tim Elliot, spoke about the strides the pair made while serving together on the Downtown Newton Development Association (DNDA) board.

“I just think of Melvin as a pioneer in a new wave of revitalization in the 1990’s,” he said.

Elliot said that Newton was suffering from the same thing that all small cities were experiencing at the time.

“All the business was moving to the malls,” he said. “Newton was taking that hit.”

Caldwell, known as a “hometown man”, tried to do what he could to bring business back.

“Melvin just jumped right in,” Elliot said. “He was very instrumental in bringing Newton back to life.”

Elliot said that Caldwell saw Newton in a different light. Whenever ideas were mentioned, he was the “first to step up and would step in whenever needed.”

“We had a similar vision for Newton,” Elliot said. “Melvin saw the aesthetics in Newton— he saw the beauty that others who lived here took for granted.”

Caldwell wanted to make Newton a destination site— he thought music festivals would help it become one.

He and Elliot both shared a love for different genres of music, and they thought blues would be the way to go. It led them to create the NewtonFest Blues Jam which lasted for four years. People drove from as far as Maryland and even Florida supporting the local economy.

Elliot feels that the festival brought positive attention to Newton and was what was needed at the time.

“Blues were popular,” he said.

Later, in the 2000s, the pair highlighted the area’s country roots by creating the Sod Fest. Held at the Piedmont Turf Farm in Maiden, the show’s purpose was to reunite the C&M Traveling Show.

“Melvin brought this band back together,” Elliot said. “It really illustrated his roots in the music.”

Beyond the DNDA, the men were friends who shared a love for boating on Lake Norman.

“Melvin was an avid boater and a real lake lover,” Elliot said.

Even though Caldwell was older, Elliot described him as being “healthy” and physically active, often riding his bicycle to different locations.

“He had a lot of vitality,” Elliot said. “His death was a shock.”

After finding out the news from Caldwell’s neighbors on Sixth Street in Newton, he knew that more people other than himself cared for Melvin.

“To hear his neighbors speak of him the way they did speaks volumes,” Elliot said. “He’s always been a good neighbor too.”

He wants to make sure that everyone knows what an inspirational person Caldwell was and to remember his contributions.

“Melvin was one of the unsung heroes for the Newton community,” Elliot said. “It’s a shame he didn’t get the accolades while he was alive. He deserves all the lauding he can get.”