A Life Full of Wisdom
BY SCOTT C. TIPS
I met Michael LeVesque in the early 1990s, not long after I had moved to Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Michael was the owner of a small but elite chain of health-food stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and we soon became friends as I shopped frequently at several of his stores. This is his incredible story so far, most of which I did not even suspect until now.
In the Summer of 1943, Michael was born the youngest of three children, with one brother and one sister, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Sadly, at the age of three, he was hospitalized with infantile paralysis, polio. Fortunately, he received the Sister Kenny Treatment, which was developed for polio victims in Australia and was remarkably successful. The treatment protocol involved applying wet heat and massage to continually allay the musculature’s cramping spasms and shortening of the muscle. Over time the body’s immune system responds and overcomes the virus, resulting in no physical damage to the musculature. However, he had to learn to walk again and speak clearly.
Sister Kenny (“Sister” is a title used in place of “Nurse” in Australia, among other places such as Eastern Europe and around the World) was vilified at the time by the medical community and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) considered her work unprofessional, closing all of her clinics where children were getting cured. Ironically, though, when the President of the Australian Medical Association’s son became ill with polio, he took him to her for treatment. Much later she was recognized for her work and in 1940 came to the United States. Minnesota was the very first State to recognize her treatment. Ultimately, she was fully vindicated, a Hollywood movie was made of her trials and tribulations, and the USPS even issued a stamp commemorating her impressive work.
This has been a constant reminder to Michael of the many alternative health practitioners who are penalized, persecuted, and prevented from performing health services for those in need. One glaring and well-known example is Nurse Caisse, who in Ontario, Canada and during the first half of the 20th century successfully cured several thousand cancer victims in her clinic, under hospital authorization, using a Native American Ojibwa herbal formula. She called it the Essiac formula. However, after visits from cancer “authorities,” it was determined that she was in violation of their rules (the standard of care) and her clinic was closed despite her great success. There was a great effort from the public to keep it open, but that effort failed by one vote of the Canadian government.
This also emphasizes for Michael the unnecessary suffering and outrageous acts against Dr. Lynda Thyer and Mr. David Noakes, the Chairman of the National Health Federation, both of whom are currently in prison for their efforts to save lives using GcMAF treatments. In the Summer 2020 issue of Health Freedom News, I wrote a presentation of their current status, as NHF tirelessly and actively works to free them both.
Without the crippling effects from polio, as Michael grew older and took part in activities and play, he would experience extreme leg pain. These were not cramps; it was nerve damage from the polio virus. As before, only hours of applied wet heat would produce relief.
Michael sought relief in playing the violin, which became his passion. During his first year at University he was a violin major. He soon became ill, though, from overworking and practicing four hours a day, so he left school from nervous exhaustion. Michael recovered and went to work as a porter, cleaning the store and helping customers with large packages, at the May Company in Denver, Colorado, where his parents had moved to improve the health of the family. It was the beginning of a wonderful work-life that opened different worlds to him through the varied and fascinating people he met on the job.
When he resumed school at the University of Colorado, he majored in political science with minors in economics, history, the classics, and philosophy. Upon graduation he joined the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching science to junior high-school students in Eritrea, Africa the first year. The second year found him training at the Alemaya College of Agriculture followed by a pilot project in agriculture in Tigray province, Ethiopia. He continued to become fluent in Tigrinya, scoring a 4+ rating, where 5 is an educated native speaker. He lived remotely in a small mountaintop village where he introduced irrigation and chickens, and built a one-room schoolhouse.
Upon returning to the U.S., Michael attended Hastings School of Law in San Francisco for one year. It was a time of excellent learning, enabled a favorable parting between him and his local draft board, but it was not the path he wanted. The following year he entered the Master’s Program in social psychology at San Francisco State University. However, before the end of a semester the University was shut down by the new President S. I. Hayakawa because of campus anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.
At that point Michael moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, hoping to teach on an Indian Reservation, since during his Peace Corps training he had taught biology in summer school for Navajo students in Shiprock, New Mexico. Instead, he substitute-taught at the high school, worked as a waiter, sold pari-mutuel bets at the Jockey Club of the Santa Fe Downs Racetrack and started an underground newspaper called “The Magdalene Times.”
It was at this juncture of his life that he experienced the miracle of nutritional supplementation. Mary, his wife at the time, and her mother persuaded him to read a book on nutrition that compared the health of rats fed raw milk vs. pasteurized vs. homogenized. Obviously, the rats on raw milk came out ahead. Also, the effects of sugar were discussed. Michael stopped eating anything that had added sugar, read all labels, and learned again to enjoy food without this type of sweetness, reminding him of his years in Eritrea and Ethiopia. The most important event was Mary’s advice to try calcium and magnesium for his debilitating leg pains that were still occurring.
In 1971, the very first time that he added calcium/magnesium gluconate from a pharmacy to orange juice, he experienced complete leg-pain relief and in only 20 minutes! He was blown away. Many more things started coming into focus for him and he began taking his first steps towards mastering nutrition.
Still wanting to experience new places, Michael moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where he taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at the Alberta Vocational Center for landed immigrants and attended the University of Alberta, getting a 5th-year certificate in teaching with a major in history and psychology.
From there he bought a home in Nanaimo, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, teaching at school and working as a night auditor for the Malaspina Hotel. It was then time to move back to the United States with his family and first daughter, Sarah, and they settled in Cortez, Colorado in the Four Corners region next to Mesa Verde National Park. In Cortez he sold furniture and carpets, and used his downtime to continue to master nutrition.
At that time, several complex events led to Michael’s decision to open the first health-food store in Cortez. Naming it the Cortez Health Food Center and Sunshine Juice Bar, Michael opened the business with $2,000 and with great success. In Durango, Colorado, his second daughter, Anna, was born. After two years Michael sold the business, his home, and moved to London, England so his wife Mary could study guitar with Stefan Grossman. However, after nine months they ran out of money and returned to the U.S., but this time it was Tucson, Arizona – plucked from a map of the U.S., Michael went back to teaching ESL to adults at Pima College and selling carpets at JC Penney. Nutrition continued to fascinate him despite odd jobs that allowed him to indulge his persistent curiosity and pattern of “always learning,” something that he and Michelangelo shared.
The Arizona heat and intense sunlight worried Michael because his two daughters were both so fair, one a red head and the other a platinum blond. Therefore, the family moved to San Francisco in the Sunset District, which on old maps is called uninhabitable because of the relentless fog. To them, it was perfect.
After becoming established teaching ESL at San Francisco City College and with a final payout in 1981 from the new owners of the Cortez Health Food Center, in April 1982, Michael opened Vitamin Express on Irving Street in San Francisco in a little 350-square-foot remodeled garage, referred to as “the Cave.”
An important factor existed, his daughter Anna had been born with cerebellar ataxia (cerebral palsy). Michael read all he could find on the subject at SFSU and fortunately discovered an excellent large volume of studies focused on nutrition. Anna’s life in those first years was Michael’s greatest focus. Here again, nutrition was the saving grace and his main motivation to open Vitamin Express. It enabled him access and education into brain and nervous-system nutrients. As of today, one would find it difficult to even think that Anna was ever born with that condition.
Sales representatives, however, wondered if the business could possibly succeed when they were opening up a store with only $5,000, eight shelves, and store stock consisting mostly of teas and only two vitamin lines – RichLife and J. Pierson Company.
Yes, it was. What made it successful and growing – apart from Michael’s powerful personal story and insatiable study of nutrition – were the highest quality supplements, discounted prices, knowledgeable, friendly advice, incredible product selection, integrity, and a well-trained and dedicated staff. It grew into five stores and became “the best place to buy vitamins in the SF Bay Area.” I would know, I used to shop there regularly.
In those years, one must also credit the tremendous support and training from dedicated sales representatives, knowledgeable customers, professional health practitioners, health-freedom advocates, even an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which came as a big surprise when all others were having their literature taken from their stores.
Ever the educator, Michael made sure that each store had his specially designed literature rack displaying over 120 nutritional health articles, supplement sheets, and product disclosures. These were rotated as new information emerged and nutritional supplementation became a part of the growing American “right to know” movement on how to improve and protect health.
Michael and his managers maintained an arduous weekly training program for the staff, with a monthly training meeting of all 30 to 35 employees after working hours always with a meal, usually in Michael’s large office. These were excellent presentations by the owners and trainers of all the major and minor supplement manufacturers.
These were also the times when grass-roots efforts provoked more letters received by Congress about protecting access to dietary health products than against the Vietnam War! These were generated by small health-food stores throughout the U.S. and Vitamin Express led, promoted, supported, and advertised this course of action.
The struggle against the FDA’s draconian policies and activities in the early 1990s was partially quenched by Congress’s unanimous passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in October 1994. Nevertheless, the revolving door between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry remains and continues to be harmful to a sick Nation in dire need of a healthful cure and is a constant thorn in the side of the dietary-supplement industry.
Alongside this struggle is the international debacle that is little known and represents another great battleground for health and health freedom, the standards and guidelines established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its various committees. Michael notes that he is honored to be on the Board of Governors of the National Health Federation, “It is a responsibility and opportunity to aid as much as possible the goals of health freedom, and to be able to join the other remarkable board members and especially President Scott Tips who has relentlessly and unceasingly represented all of us at the Codex meetings keeping us informed and waging a defense to protect health and health freedom here and abroad.”
After 36 years of dedication to Vitamin Express, Michael retired. As the World shifted to online buying, he closed or sold his stores one by one, closing his last store on Irving Street, as he said, “while I still have customers.”
Michael spends his time between the best of two worlds, the city of San Francisco and Clear Lake Riviera, California, overlooking Clear Lake, the oldest lake in the North American Continent and Mount Konocti, a volcano that last erupted 12,000 years ago. Clear Lake is also home to the Puma Indians, who have occupied the basin for over 11,000 years.
By living in Clear Lake Riviera, he is escaping the enormous radiation exposures present in the City from 4G and now 5G electromagnetic radiation (EMR) pulsations that are well above the tolerable levels for health. His efforts in San Francisco with the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Appeals came to nothing when behind closed doors carte blanche was given to the telecommunications industry to place antennas throughout the city. In Michael’s short time on the NHF Board of Governors, he has already written a powerful article on 5G for the magazine as well as co-launching a campaign on 5G.
His latest business is selling Swiss-made RayGuard products online at RayGuardProtect.com. Imported from Germany, they meet the Swiss anti-electromagnetic-wave laws of 1998 and 2008, which were followed in turn by the similar European Directive of 2013. Michael also edits a product newsletter and EMF blog, which can be found on his website.
Michael’s joy includes being with his wife Camilla, his family, being a grandfather, playing the piano, writing, poetry, art, and practicing Chi Kung. In 2002, he published The BIG Vitamin Dictionary, originally written for his staff. It became a NutriBooks Best Seller and is a clear and concise dictionary of everything one can find on the shelves of a vitamin store along with sections on homeopathy, essential oils, immune supplements, sport supplements, brain supplements, and the Bach Flower Remedies.
Michael’s life continues to be one of education, inspiration, and continual exploration. Michael’s focus now is on revising his 2002 vitamin dictionary, which is currently out of print, and on his activism through the NHF Board, especially concerning 5G. We are fortunate to have his commitment and passion on the Board and look forward to seeing where it leads.