ICONIC Fremantle accordion busker Tony DeGrys, a weekend fixture at the Fremantle Markets for years, has died aged 95.
Mr DeGrys, born in the Netherlands in 1925, so captured the essence of multicultural Freo with his fold-up chair and accordion strapped to his bike that he graced one of Fremantle council’s annual calendars and a Transperth campaign encouraging people to train it down to Fremantle.
Best mate Eddie Boekelman, also a muso who played with Easybeats founder Stevie Wright, said Mr DeGrys was a quiet and humble bloke, but his music was loved down at the markets and he’d come home each day with a hat heavy with coins.
Mr DeGrys arrived in WA in 1951 and studied music and German language, playing piano around the city’s clubs, bars and restaurants. Later he taught himself to play the piano accordion.
He worked as a clerk in the Perth Law Court until his retirement, riding his bike to work from Nedlands each day.
Mr Boekelman’s brother Mariella said Mr DeGrys was an avid rider.
“He once rode his bike in extreme heat from Safety Bay where he was living at the time to Maddington to pick up his car from the mechanics; he was in his 70’s,” he said.
Following his retirement Mr DeGrys took up busking at the Markets, and it was a rare weekend when he couldn’t be found in his usual spot in the side alley entrance.
Four years ago Mr DeGrys suffered a fall and moved into a nursing home, but he’d regularly entertain his fellow residents, while Eddie Boekelman would still pick him up regularly so he could continue to busk.
Mr Boekelman said he even took him over east where he played a wedding at the Byron Bay Lighthouse as well as sitting in on a couple of local gigs.
Mr DeGrys did produce a recording, with tenor William Adami, which is held in the State Library.
He was also a member of the Melville Scrabble Club and had a hefty trophy cabinet, while he also made many donations towards animal welfare.
The funeral service for Mr DeGrys will be held on June 9 at Hetherington Funerals at 79 Kelvin Road, Maddington from 2.15pm. The service is also being streamed live: contact Hetherington on 9459 2846 before the service to get the link.