It has been nearly 40 years since the King of Rock ’n Roll was silenced, but his spirit has lived on in Bristol all these years through the town’s own “Elvis,” Michael Paiva.
Sadly, the “King of Bristol’s” voice has also been silenced, but his indomitable spirit lives on in the family, friends and community he left behind.
“People loved him. He dedicated his life to the people of Bristol,” said Paul Branco, Mr. Paiva’s cousin. “Everyone knew him. He would walk around and just make everyone smile.”
Mr. Paiva — “Elvis” to all who knew him, and even those who didn’t— was a fixture at many community events, especially those connected to St. Elizabeth’s Church, where he was active in a number of church groups. From the Santo Cristo, Holy Ghost and Santissima Trindade feasts to holiday celebrations, Mr. Paiva was sure to be in attendance, leading the procession with his accordion.
“He was involved in the church in every possible way,” Mr. Branco said.
His primary passion, though, was Elvis Presley. He dressed like Elvis, sported the signature sideburns, sung Elvis songs in karaoke bars around the region, and even considered legally changing his name to Elvis.
“It was his passion,” Mr. Branco said. “It all starts with his passion for Elvis.”
Mr. Paiva volunteerd with the Bristol Fire Department, dabbled in landscaping, collected antiques and was a regular at the Sip ’n Dip car shows on Wednesday nights in the summer, proudly showing off his 1978 Cadillac Eldorado, similar to the one his namesake drove.
“He always brought his Caddy to the car shows,” said friend Manny Correira. “He was a really nice guy. He really loved being around people and entertaining them. He really made people feel good.”
That seems evident from the hundreds who turned out for Mr. Paiva’s funeral at St. Elizabeth’s Church Tuesday morning. Mr. Paiva, 43, died Friday evening at Philip Hulitar Hospice Center after a brief battle with pneumonia. His death is all the more tragic considering he had been fighting — and had recently beaten — cancer.
“He battled cancer for several months, and he was cancer free. Elvis was ecstatic. The entire family was ecstatic,” Mr. Branco said. “Three weeks ago, he went into the hospital for pneumonia. His body was weak from the chemo. His body couldn’t deal with it.”
During healthier times, Mr. Paiva, who was passionate about music and “could literally pick up any instrument and just play,” was a regular at karaoke shows and contests throughout Bristol and around Rhode Island and Massachusetts. His song choices, of course, were almost always tunes by Elvis Presley, Mr. Paiva’s idol, whose spirit he embodied in every way.
“I’ve loved Elvis ever since I was 10 years old,” Mr. Paiva told the Bristol Phoenix in 2006. “I heard him on the radio singing ‘Suspicious Minds,’ and I’m fascinated with him because he’s got the looks, the style, the car, the girls, the money — everything. I basically try to do everything like him. Everything that I do has to be based on Elvis.”