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J. Michael Roy 03/03/2024

Retired UW-River Falls professor of music, James Michael Roy, 74, of River Falls, WI, died on Sunday, March 3, 2024. The son of James Eberhard and Lila Mary (McRae) Roy, he was born Oct. 30, 1949, in Macon, MO, and was raised in Clarence, MO. Mike graduated from South Shelby High School in 1967. He attended the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, where he earned a Bachelor of Music cum laude in 1971, and a Master of Theory summa cum laude in 1973. Mike also studied at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, completing courses towards a Doctor of Music degree.

Mike was a member of Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi honorary scholastic society and Pi Kappa Lambda, national honorary music fraternity. He was a talented musician who excelled on piano and all percussion instruments, a gifted performer, an innovative and published composer, a spirited conductor, and an inspirational educator. Mike worked as a free-lance percussionist in the Twin Cities area where he performed with nearly every large musical organization including the Minnesota and Plymouth Orchestras and the Minnesota Opera and was involved with the performance of several major works, including several world premieres.

In 1971, Mike married Vera Shevlakov. In 1973, the couple moved to Montgomery, WV, where Mike was hired to teach music theory, piano, and percussion at the West Virginia Institute of Technology music department. During that time Mike became the proud father of two daughters, Monika Erin Roy and Alexandra McRae Roy. In 1980, Mike was hired by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and taught music theory, composition, and percussion. A few years later, Mike’s son, James Nicholas Roy, was born.

Mike retired from UW-RF in 2015. While there, he was chair of the department for twelve years and he received the Excellence in Advising Award in 2002 and the Excellence in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities Award in 2009.

For many years, Mike served as music director for the St. Croix Valley Summer Theatre and the UWRF University Theatre where he conducted many musicals, concluding with “Chicago”, one of his favorite musicals. He also wrote the arrangements for the musical “That Lovin’ Feelin’” a show that premiered at the St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Hudson, WI, and has been performed across the country.

Mike composed and arranged over 90 works for percussion, band, choir, and other chamber and solo pieces. These works have been performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. He received several commissions from area band directors and started a series of pieces depicting each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

While music was the driving force of his ambitions, Mike also enjoyed reading and accumulated an extensive library of science fiction novels, murder mysteries, and works of historical fiction. He loved to travel and managed to successfully accomplish a self-imposed goal of traveling to all 50 states in the union. Mike also visited several European nations, and most recently, one near and dear to his family heritage, that of Scotland, where he was able to get a glimpse of the McRae Castle.

During his time in West Virginia, Mike developed a love of white-water rafting. He, along with some of his students, would daringly brave some of the wild river waters of that state, and also various waterways in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

An avid sports fan, Mike followed and supported Missouri’s teams, namely the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Cardinals, in addition to the University of Missouri’s college teams.

Mike’s other creative talents were reflected in his ability to craft a number of model ships, a hobby he thoroughly enjoyed. He displayed even more creativity when he dove into the art of cartography. After learning some of the basics of that art, some of Mike’s skillful renderings were published in a series of children’s books that were used in a local public school system.

Mike and Vera divorced in 1991 and he married Catherine Zillmann in 1994. They divorced in 2010. Mike married Lisa Benz in 2011. As teachers, they were able to travel in the summers, visiting many national parks and exploring many unique areas of the country. They shared common interests in reading, music, and spending time with family, especially their grandchildren.

Mike was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Terry Rae Schatz; and infant granddaughter, Marley Blue Bartels. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, of River Falls; mother- and father-in-law, Kathleen and Loren Benz, of Blue Earth, MN; brothers- and sister-in-law, Derick Benz, and Clinton (Susan) Benz, all of Blue Earth, MN; children: Monika (Jeff) Waloway of Eau Claire, WI, Alex (Jason) Bartels of Hudson, WI, and J. Nicholas (Tiffany) Roy of River Falls, WI; grandchildren: Kala Alexis (Logan Jilek) Rehberger, Lillian Sofia Bartels, Jameson Jackson Bartels, James Curtis Roy, and Oliver Lennon Roy; step-granddaughter, MacKenzie Joy Waloway; nieces: Kristen (Timothy) Stoesser, Lacey Benz and Marissa Benz; and many cousins, other family members and friends.

Mike’s life was celebrated with a visitation at Bakken Young Funeral & Cremation Services (805 E Division Street) on Saturday, March 16, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. followed by a service at 2:00 p.m. with Amy DeLong officiating. A gathering for friends and family was held at Juniors Restaurant (414 S Main Street) in River Falls after the service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent/directed to the music department at UW-River Falls. Arrangements are with Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services.

Click here to watch the live-stream of Mike’s service.



  • Meg Swanson Posted March 6, 2024 11:49 am

    Mike was a sensitive and creative collaborator on theatre productions over many years. I admired his skill and enjoyed his company.

  • Lesley & Ian Williams Posted March 8, 2024 4:06 pm

    We have very fond memories of Mike teaching our son Tristan piano for 4 years. Mike allowed Tristan to follow his musical heart and encouraged him to compose music. Thank you for that Mike. Rest in peace.

  • Edna Curry McCoy Posted March 11, 2024 7:07 pm

    I was privileged to be guided and taught by Mr. Roy at West Virginia Tech. His love for his students got me through 3 yrs of the music program; he left WV Tech for WI at the end of my junior year. Mr. Roy will always remain in my heart for without him I wouldn’t have become a music teacher. Love and prayers for his family. Edna Curry McCoy

  • Dan Kayhart Posted March 13, 2024 9:51 pm

    Mike’s life serves as a shining example of sharing our gifts in ways that lift up others. I will always be thankful for the ways he shared his musicianship, his excellence, his talents, his friendship, and his creativity with me and so many others. From the beautiful music that he wrote to the spirit of excellence he embodied, and the careful and humble perfection he pursued in all things; thank you Mike for showing us the way. For all of Mike’s family and friends in this difficult time we send prayers of love, light, and peace.

  • Wendy Gianforte Posted March 15, 2024 5:56 pm

    I remember visiting Uncle Mike and Aunt Vera many years ago as a young child. Uncle Mike introduced me to Copacabana by Barry Manilow. I was in awe. Our love to all in Uncle Mike’s family.

  • Lisa Brenna and Joe Black Posted March 16, 2024 1:57 pm

    Our condolences to the family for the loss of Mr. Roy.

    Alex- I will always remember listening to his albums with you at the house in River Hills.
    Being as careful as we could, reading Beatles verses, looking at the covers and thinking we were the first ones to really understand the lyrics. He was just a cool dad and I will remember him and his music always.

  • Kathy Svoboda Posted March 16, 2024 3:28 pm

    Keeping Lisa and Mike’s entire family in my thoughts and prayers. It was a privilege and an honor to work with Mike at UWRF. I have fond memories of Mike. He was a really nice person who was dedicated to his family and students. Rest in peace, my friend.

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