Jan. 23, 1928 – Sept. 22, 2017
Henry A. Chimes, an accordion musician who performed as the “Caktus Kid” and founded Chimes Music Corp., died Sept. 22. He was 89.
Mr. Chimes, of Cheektowaga, was born in Buffalo, the son of the late Helen and Henry Chmielewski. He graduated from Depew High School and attended Canisius College.
He began playing accordion at age 8, and his first accordion was purchased from a small pawn shop located next to his father’s grocery store on Broadway. In 1948, he began teaching accordion.
"Dad would go door to door asking neighbors if they wanted to learn the accordion," recalled a daughter, Cynthia Chimes DeGain.
In the 1950s, he was part of the group called the Sun Dodgers, a popular country western group that could be seen on the South Park Chevrolet Barn Dance, airing on WGR TV. All the members took a western-themed nickname, which is how the Caktus Kid came to be, along with his bandmates, the Yodeling Cowboy, Tall Tex and the Vanishing Cowboy.
Mr. Chimes also had his own radio show and, in 1952, opened the first music store in Cheektowaga. The Caktus Kid Accordion Studio on Walden Avenue had over 150 accordion students. The store was later renamed Chimes Music. He was a leader in the school band business, renting and repairing instruments from throughout Western New York and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Chimes established the Cheektowaga Senior Band and professionally played throughout the region until 2014, when he officially retired at age 85.
"Music was his whole life," said DeGain. "He was a showman who was always loved pleasing and talking to people. He did what he loved."
Indeed, family members said Mr. Chimes was fond of saying, "Never a day in my life did I regret going to work. I enjoyed it so much."
He was a member of the Ambassadors of St. Joseph Hospital and chairman of its Debutantes Ball, and a member and president of the Professional and Businessmen’s Association of Western New York. He was Ampol Eagle’s Citizen of the Year for his lifetime of service to music, and his years of performing and entertaining.
Mr. Chimes was featured in The Buffalo News, Amherst Bee, and several times in the Cheektowaga Bee, on the topics of music and his accordion. He was a member of Local 92 and the American Federation of Musicians. He was a member of St. John Gualbert Holy Name Society, and a lector at Sunday Mass. He also recently was a parishioner of Queen of Martyr’s Church.
Mr. Chimes was proficient in golf, bowling and, when younger, was offered a professional position in baseball. He was also a dedicated Bills and Sabres fan.
Mr. Chimes was predeceased by two sisters, Eleanor Grzankowski and Esther Giczkowski. Survivors include his wife of 69 years, Dorothy; four daughters, Cynthia Chimes DeGain, Bonita Chimes, Audrey Caya, and State Supreme Court Judge Deborah Chimes; a son, Henry; a brother, Edwin Chmielewski; a sister, Christine Isbrandt; and eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 at Queen of Martyrs Church, 180 George Urban Blvd. Interment will be at St. Anthony’s Cemetery.