William Dunkley, purveyor of pianos and founder of Idaho’s Dunkley Music, dies

William Dunkley landed in fields and knocked on doors to sell musical instruments

William Dunkley wasn’t just satisfied with customers coming into his store, Dunkley Music, in Boise. He regularly hopped into his plane and landed on farm fields so he could knock on doors in smaller communities.
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William Dunkley wasn’t just satisfied with customers coming into his store, Dunkley Music, in Boise. He regularly hopped into his plane and landed on farm fields so he could knock on doors in smaller communities.

He was known as “Boise’s Flying Music Dealer.”

William K. Dunkley, who died May 30 at age 97, wanted to spread his love of music beyond the customers who came to Dunkley Music on Main Street and later at 410 S. Capitol Blvd. So he would fly himself in a small plane emblazoned with the Dunkley logo to towns such as Weiser, Payette, Burley, Sun Valley, Ontario, Oregon, and Elko, Nevada.

“He would even fly to Kuna,” said his son, Mark Dunkley, who now heads Dunkley Music. “He’d land on someone’s farm and go knock on doors.”

Dunkley not only sold and repaired musical instruments, he created practice studios and a recital hall at the store, which were continued when the company left Boise for 3410 N. Eagle Road in Meridian four years ago.

William K. Dunkley and wife Dorothy watch as son Mark (off-camera) uses an excavator to begin demolition on the Dunkley Music building in September 2015. Idaho Statesman file photo

He served on the boards of several musical organizations, including business groups and the Boise Philharmonic. He was chairman of the Boise Park Commission and served on a regional airport board. He was active in Boise Music Week, an annual celebration of music, dance and theater, now in its 100 year.

He also served as a bishop and stake president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“That was his way of giving back to the community, which he felt was important,” Mark Dunkley said. “My father enjoyed helping people and serving people and being involved in a broad range of organizations.”

Dunkley was born March 1, 1922, in Whitney, Idaho, a small farming community south of Preston and north of the Utah border.

He started playing the piano as a child but switched to the trumpet. He earned a music scholarship to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

During his second year of college, in fall 1941, Dunkley and nine other students were chosen to take flying lessons, paid for by the federal government, which needed pilots as the U.S. neared approached its entry into World War II.

Dunkley plane
William Dunkley stands in front of his plane in an undated photo provided by son Mark Dunkley. “He would load Magnavox TVs into his plane and deliver them to customers,” Mark Dunkley said.

Dunkley served a two-year church mission in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. When he returned home, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy and was later assigned to the Merchant Marine. By that time, new military pilots were no longer needed.

After the war, Dunkley returned home and married Dorothy Tanner, who had also grown up in Whitney. They celebrated their 70th anniversary last summer, a few months before Dorothy died.

He started a music business in Ogden, Utah, in 1946 with his brother Willis. William and Dorothy Dunkley moved to Boise four years later, because he wanted to obtain a Steinway piano franchise, Mark Dunkley said.

An established music company in Salt Lake already had the Steinway franchise there, and Dunkley thought he would have a better chance in Idaho. He obtained it 11 years later.

Dunkley liked to buy used pianos and resell them. But it wasn’t always to make a buck.

“There were times when he bought pianos from people who had to sell their pianos because of medical reasons,” Mark Dunkley said. “I know there were many times when he paid two or three times what the piano was worth just to help the people out.”

Dunkley is survived by his children, daughters Sylvia Hessing and Rosemary Kirkland, and sons William T. and Mark. Son Bruce Dunkley died earlier. He is also survived by 40 grandchildren and 65 great-grandchildren.

A viewing will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Relyea Funeral Chapel, 318 N. Latah St.

A second viewing will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 3229 N. Bogus Basin Road. A funeral will follow at 11 a.m.

Internment will take place at Dry Creek Cemetery.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.