Sat, Feb 9th 2019 12:20 pm
Bob Chambers, long time organist for Holy Angels Parish will be honored on May 13. He is 85, been playing for the church since 1947. He is an honorary Franciscan and Oblate, so he has habits and crosses.
(Dan Cappellazzo/Staff photographer)
Over the last eight decades, there haven't been many who've given back to Western New York's Catholic community like Robert H. Chambers, both in length of service and number of lives touched.
In his parish life, he was a lifelong member of Holy Angels Parish on Buffalo's West Side, where he spent more than 70 years as an organist. Part of a devoted, devout family, he had taken over the job from his mother, who first played the Holy Angels organ in 1912.
"I love the church. I love the music. I love the ministry. It's a great gift," he said of his 70 years of dedication. "It's a wonderful place to serve with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (who founded the parish in 1851). I just enjoy every minute of it. It's a great opportunity to thank God for the many gifts and graces that we have all received."
His professional life took him to South Buffalo's Bishop Timon High School, where he dedicated 40 years of his life to bringing Christ into the lives of the thousands of young men who passed through his care.
He started at Timon in 1954 as an English teacher and retired in 1994, having spent 25 years as the school's principal.
"He really embodied Franciscan values, truly lived the Gospel and taught us men how to do that," said Thomas Sullivan, who was taught by Chambers at Timon and then followed him as principal from 1994-2016. "He taught by example, and made sure people working at Timon knew that they were part of the mission, that faith and education go hand and hand."
In Chambers' case, those hands were firm ones. Generations of South Buffalonians remember him by his nickname, "The Rock." Simply by standing up, with arms folded and a stern look, "The Rock" could quiet an auditorium filled with 800 teenage boys.
So many of those boys, 30, 40 or 50 years later will tell you that the name not only stood for toughness, but also for the role he played in providing a solid foundation in their lives. The Bishop Timon Graduating Class of 1978 dedicated their yearbook to their principal.
"No individual has sacrificed more for the Timon Community than Mr. Robert H. Chambers," read the dedication.
"He created a climate where each of us, student and teacher, could work to our maximum capabilities ... He has been an unending example of a gentleman who has shown the qualities of a devoted teacher, counselor and a willing leader."
For his work at Timon and Holy Angels, Chambers has been named both an honorary Franciscan and an honorary Oblate, complete with habits. "It means you share in the prayers and good works," he told Western New York Catholic in 2017. "It's an honor recognizing the service that I have given to the Franciscans, basically at Timon, and to the Oblates here (at Holy Angels). I consider it a gift. It's a great gift. I take no credit for it. God put me in this place, and thanks be to God, I was able to respond."
Robert H. Chambers was laid to rest with the honors of the Franciscans and the Oblates at Holy Angels on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. He was 87.