April 15 – Happy Birthday Chet (Kukiewicz) Curtis

 College graduation photo
College graduation photo

Chester Kukiewicz’s childhood in Amsterdam was not exactly filled with the happiest of memories. His mom died shortly after he was born on this date in 1939. Then in 1954, his dad Albert , who worked in an Amsterdam rug mill, passed away “suddenly” at their 31 Jay Street home. Now an orphan,15 year-old Chet moved in with his Uncle Joseph while he finished high school at Wilbur Lynch.

The young man had a good voice and a love for performing. He got involved in drama in high school, performed as a singer at various functions around Amsterdam and eventually became a regular on WRGB’s Teenage Barn Television show, where he was good enough to be invited to become part of the popular program’s touring road production. He also worked summer jobs at WCSS.

He then made the outstanding decision to attend Ithaca College and study television and radio performance. He became quite the celebrity on campus and the college radio show he hosted became so popular, it got better ratings than most of the commercial station competition he faced in his time slot. The good-looking young man also met Helen Wagner, who would become his first wife. She happened to be the secretary of the dean of Ithaca’s School of Television and Radio!

He accepted a job offer from CBS, working for both radio and television affiliates of that network, first in Washington D.C. and then New York City. In 1968, he moved to Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-Channel 5. He changed his family name to Curtis, divorced his wife and over the next 30 years became the most recognized…

You can read the rest of my story about this Amsterdam native in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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