Lulu Roman, beloved ‘Hee Haw’ cast member, to perform at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colo. | TheFencePost.com

Lulu Roman, beloved ‘Hee Haw’ cast member, to perform at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colo.

A real treat awaits a lucky audience at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colo., on March 10, 2019. For many, it will include a joyful walk down memory lane while (younger) others will "discover" a versatile, seasoned performer.

Beginning back in the 1960s, it seemed as if every American television was tuned to one particular weekly program. Its side-splitting humor delightfully poked fun at the culture of the very viewers who watched; and they absolutely loved it.

From 1968 to 1995, LuLu Roman was a regular and beloved cast member of that eventually syndicated television show, "Hee Haw." She and other stars of the show never failed to lift spirits during some very turbulent times in our country. As popular as she was in that starring rural role, Roman occasionally stepped off-stage for special entertainment opportunities.

For example, in 1980 she was honored to be selected as a guest performer at President Ronald Reagan's inauguration celebration. She also displayed her acting skills in guest roles for TV shows such as "The Love Boat" and "Touched by an Angel."

Behind her penchant for comedy, however, languished painful memories. Roman was born (with a thyroid dysfunction) in a home for unwed mothers; abandoned, she grew up in an orphanage where ongoing weight problems heightened her emotional pain, prevented adoption, and made her a target of perpetual teasing by the other orphans.

Roman learned to use humor as a defense mechanism against her troublesome childhood. That brave strategy worked, much later leading her into show business where a jovial nature and quick wit served her well. A leading role in "Hee Haw" brought with it success and wealth.

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A fruitless search for acceptance of her true self, however, led her into drug addiction. She spiraled downward. Roman nearly forfeited both her career and her life by 1971. Thankfully, an unseen, bright light lay ahead to save both.

FAITH IN GOD

In 1973, a newly-found faith in God forever changed her life. She simultaneously discovered a previously dormant talent: her voice. She began singing Gospel music, eventually introducing it into "Hee Haw." Awards and more opportunities started coming her way.

She was inducted into the Country Music Gospel Hall of Fame in 1999 and her 16th album, a collection of hits and favorites called "LuLu Inspired," was nominated for a Dove Award in 2002.

In 2006, she recorded an Americana-type album,"Orphan Girl," which is a collection of gospel, country, and rhythm and blues. The title song of the same name was largely biographical and became her signature song. Her most recent Gospel project, "Seven Times," included the international hit "Do You Know How To Fly?"

Roman recently completed a project entitled "At Last", an album of 12 favorites including "You Don't Know Me," "I Will Always Love You" and the title song, "At Last." Joining her on the album are Dolly Parton, T. Graham Brown, Linda Davis and Georgette Jones.

Although already performing for 50 years, Roman has no plans to rest or retire. She continues travelling to share her testimony, humor and music.

Opening for her at the March 10 Lincoln Center event will be the Kathy Connolly Band from Laporte, Colo. How that arrangement came about says a great deal about Roman's intense devotion to her Lord and sincere compassion for those in dire need of encouragement.

Connolly is a volunteer at a Larimer County rehabilitation program for women inmates, some whose own struggles with addiction led them into crime. Those who successfully complete the multi-faceted rehab can relocate to a halfway house, qualify for early release and eventually rejoin the community.

Although Roman was never imprisoned, her challenges with drugs and difficult life experiences (including the tragic death of her only child) parallel what many women convicted of crimes also battle.

MAKING A CONNECTION

Connolly emailed Roman on behalf of the jail program. One thing led to another, which led to the upcoming Fort Collins concert.

"I never expected LuLu to respond so quickly," Connolly said. "We've never met before but have now become very good friends."

Part of that connection is likely their shared heart. Roman travels around the country performing (often pro-bono) as part of her ministry to the broken and broken-hearted. One of Connolly's mottos is "Recovery from addiction through a relationship with God."

Connolly further recognizes that each person must express themself and their special, God-given talents. So many people in prison have grown angry through chronic defeat, given up, or were never emboldened by love in the first place, she said.

"Look into yourself, bring out and express that artistic part of you." she said. "And it works," said Connolly of the program she leads.

She is eager to take the stage with Roman, who she added is equally looking forward to performing and sharing her life story and testimony.

Roman's March 10, Fort Collins, performance at the Lincoln Center, "This Is My Story, This Is My Song," is sponsored by LifePointe Church but open to the public. Tickets are $20 each and available at the Lincoln Center Box Office, 12-6 p.m., or online at http://www.lctix.com. For additional information, you can call (970) 221-6730. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.