Sean Glisson — Member Profile

Sean Glisson was born with a heart of gold and an unflinching passion for history. He packed so much into his 51 years. He traveled, chased his dreams, fell in love, became a father, mentored youth, consumed history books, cherished the Phillies, and worked in a profession he loved.

Born in Maple Shade, NJ, Sean graduated from Holy Cross High School in 1989. He went on to graduate with Honors from Rutgers University with a double major in history and finance (and proudly without debt), and was Vice President of Underwriting for Republic Bank.

As a devoted husband of 26 years to Nadine (Scurria) Glisson, and dad to their three sons Evan, Alexander, and Gabriel, Sean loved vacations, the beach, and grilling for his family in the backyard. He was a fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Villanova, and Notre Dame football, and had a fabulous sense of humor that caused uproarious laughter in those around him. Sean was like a second son to his in-laws, Tom Scurria (Old Baldy member) and his wife Valerie.

With relentless energy and enthusiasm, Sean pursued a greater understanding of history by reading books on the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War, WWII, the French & Indian War. His personal library was extensive.

Concerning the Civil War, Sean was a reenactor for over 25 years and introduced his sons, Alexander and Gabriel, to the hobby and tradition. Sean was interested in all aspects of the war – military, political and economic, and was inclined toward military campaigns. He had visited either through reenacting or trips, most of the major battle sites from the Mississippi east. With his son, Alex, Sean traveled as far as Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas. He was affiliated with the 3rd Alabama and 14th North Carolina. Tom recalls the concern many years ago with his then very young grandson, Alexander, traveling so far with Sean for Alexander’s first reenactment. “His wife told Sean to make sure nothing happens to Alex. Within their first 10 minutes at the Neshaminy State Park camping visit, Alex ran directly into a pole which left a GIANT welt and “egg” on his forehead! Sean was so afraid of how much trouble he was going to be in when he arrived back home with our “son” that the guys teased him about it all weekend!”

Sean loved traveling, and he and Tom spent the weeks before his untimely death on a twelve-day Stephan Ambrose tour following the Louis & Clark Expedition (1804-06), beginning in Great Falls, Montana and ending 2,000 miles away in Astoria, Washington. Both men, avid readers with book collections that Thomas Jefferson would have envied, already knew that Jefferson sponsored Meriwether Lewis to put together the team to explore the territories that were part of the Louisiana Purchase. There were large regions no white man had ever seen. The Ambrose tour was important to Sean. “We both wanted to understand the who’s, why’s and reasons our incredible country was founded, and the basis of our government. The Expedition was truly one of the greatest and most difficult explorations in world history. It changed the history of the United States.” The 19th century expedition opened the vast west to the migration from the east and foreign immigration to take advantage of the American dreams of exploration, ownership of homes and farms, and many other basic human drives for progress. “This region is also intimately linked to the founding of our country, Napoleon, the Spanish and British and the expansion west. It was another proof that the brilliant documents of our founding – the Declaration and the Constitution – worked.”

Sean heard about Old Baldy after meeting Harry Jenkins, a Roundtable member for over 31 years. Harry was a customer at the Cinnaminson diner where Sean’s mother, Jane, waitressed. She saw Harry thumbing through a history magazine, knew Sean liked history, and made the introduction. From then on, Sean and Harry had maintained an extremely strong friendship. And Sean did eventually join Old Baldy 7 ½ years ago and served as secretary since 2019. He was co-chair with Tom in planning the Western Theater Symposium that was to be held at Rutgers University Camden this past April. Besides Old Baldy, Sean supported the American Battlefield Trust Preservation and was an official fan of the Delaware Valley soccer group “Sons of Ben” named after Benjamin Franklin.

This past June Sean, his family, Tom and Valerie, attended the grand opening of the Armed Forces Heritage Museum of Burlington, NJ, about 40 miles north from his home in Hammonton. What made this event so special to Sean was the unveiling of Alexander’s dioramas. In addition to reenacting and sewing his own uniforms from scratch, Alexander has an exceptional, self-taught ability to create dioramas. He has produced them for multiple wars. Alexander also provided an exhibit on WWII uniforms and equipment. The museum management appreciates his unflinching passion for history.

Profile written by Kim Weaver & Tom Scurria

Jim Mullen — Member Profile

Jim Mullen was born in October of 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Northeast Philadelphia alongside his two brothers and went to Northeast Catholic High School. During this time, he enjoyed playing sports with his friends, reading books such as Sherlock Holmes, and playing the saxophone in his school band. After high school, he decided to commute to Villanova University, which required trolley rides, train rides, and car rides from friends until he eventually got his own car. He took the LSAT while in college and received a score that got him a scholarship for Villanova Law School. He lived on campus and although it was hard, he enjoyed his law school experience. He graduated from Villanova Law School in 1960.

After graduation, Jim decided to look for work in New Jersey because that is where his family had moved to. He took a bar review course and passed the bar exam on his first try, becoming a New Jersey attorney. He got hired at a law firm in Camden where he did trail work. He liked working with other attorneys and he was happy with his successful career. He became a partner of the firm until it dissolved in 1998. He then went into private practice until 2015 when he decided to retire.

In 1963, Jim married Judith, a legal secretary he had met at a Christmas party. The couple have been married for almost 60 years and have had four children together: Jenny, Jim, Thomas, and Terry. Jenny, Thomas, and Terry followed in their father’s footsteps and became lawyers themselves. Jim and Judith enjoy traveling together, and they have visited multiple battlefields on their trips.

He became interested in the Civil War during high school when he read a series of books about the war written by Bruce Catton. His father was also interested in the topic. Jim would talk with his friends about the war and travel to related historical sites in his youth. He joined the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table with his friend while it was still located in Philadelphia. He loved traveling with the Old Baldy CWRT to visit the battlefield at Antietam. Besides the Civil War, he enjoys reading about local and country-wide politics.

Ed Komczyk — Member Profile

Long before he joined the Civil War Roundtable (and became Waldorf to Bill Sia’s Statler of Muppets fame), Ed Komczyk was a star-rank Boy Scout concerned about the environment.

Ed was born in 1939 in Woodbury, NJ and lived with his family in the Red Bank section of West Deptford where he was raised. He was about 12 years old when he discovered an oil slick in the river that appeared to generate from the local Texaco oil refinery near Red Bank Ave. and Front St. the place locals know as Soupy Island, a 15-acre parcel along the Delaware River in Gloucester County. That scene stayed with Ed and he vowed to help create through advocacy a cleaner, greener future for West Deptford. “Yes, I’m a tree hugger!”

At the independent age of 15, Ed started offering accordion lessons at Klayman’s Music Center in Woodbury. He was unsure if he was good enough at the instrument to teach others but it WAS the instrument of the 50s and enough people in the neighborhood seemed intrigued to learn it. He bought his first accordion in 1957 for $1700, a fortune then, but Ed assures us he was making the big bucks to afford it. That same year, as a senior at Paulsboro High School, Ed enrolled in a drafting training program offered by RCA in Camden, and upon completion of the program and his subsequent high school graduation, he was hired on. After a year at the company he left to work full-time at Klayman’s.

Ed’s accordion days came to an end when he enrolled at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) to major in science and math. It is mathematics that Ed would go on to teach for 33 years at Pennsauken High School, and where he would meet Miriam Reichenbach, an English teacher and reading specialist, and later in her career, a librarian who has been his loving wife for 35 years. “I was fortunate to be a teacher. I had a wonderful career. I know I impacted lives because I still get together with past students for dinner.”

Pennsauken High School played an important role in Ed’s now 25-year membership in Old Baldy CWRT. There he met with fellow teachers and Old Baldy members Bill Sia (American Government and History) and Bill Hughes (P.E and soccer coach). As union reps, Ed and Bill Sia worked together scrutinizing union contracts (“Bill Sia was my wingman”). And Bill Hughes is the one who asked Ed to tag along to an Old Baldy meeting. All three men have remained good friends and continue to support the Roundtable.

Like many Old Baldy members, Ed has been interested in the Civil War since high school. As he got older, though, his appreciation for the conflict deepened. “You age into loving history. I’d be driving down the interstate highway on really hot days and think about the troops marching in their wool uniforms and how tough they were.” Reconstruction, the period in American history that followed the Civil War – or what prominent historian Eric Foner called the nation’s second founding – is of particular interest to Ed.
“It was viewed as the formative stage of modern America – we had the underpinnings of a nation.”

Ed’s respect for military soldiers is evident in his admiration for 18th century Polish General and military engineer, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who not only fought for democracy in the American Revolutionary War but also designed and built fortifications on the Delaware and Hudson rivers. Thomas Jefferson called Kosciuszko “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” A book about the freedom fighter, The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution by Alex Storozynski sits on Ed’s bedside table. “He embodied the spirit of why we fought the war and why we exist today.”

Over the years, Ed has been honored for his restoration work on the USS New Jersey, berthed on the Delaware River and now a living museum and memorial in Camden, NJ. Together, he and Miriam serve on the West Deptford Environmental Commission: Ed as vice chair and Miriam as chairperson.

Today, Ed splits his leisure time between driving his Chevrolet C8 Corvette Stingray, flying (he’s been a licensed pilot for 50 years), and relearning the accordion. Two years ago he took it up again after 50-plus years of silence.

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Meeting of December 8, 2022

Old Baldy Election Night & Social

Join us at our regular December meeting to celebrate the end of the year and take a break from the holiday frenzy. Round Table members, family and friends are all invited to our General Membership Meeting. We will have our biennial election of officers, consider a constitutional amendment, join in some special presentations, and enjoy a social evening with friends. Members who are active (paid) or emeritus are allowed to vote. Friends, guests, honorary or inactive members who might be present are not eligible to vote. As we have members who will never be local, “physically present” includes those members participating on-line at the time of the vote.

Marty Wilensky — Member Profile

Marty Wilensky was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the northeast section of the city, attending Northeast High School. At 16 he took a job at Burger Chef, working there the next 5½ years. After graduating high school, he attended Temple University, commuting from home. Marty paid for his tuition and expenses from the money he made at Burger Chef. Besides paying for college, his time at Burger Chef led to another life-changing event – it’s where Marty met his wife, Janice (she worked the counter while he had risen from burger flipper to assistant manager). They dated for several years and got married in 1973. They will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year.

Marty was a history major in college, where he focused on European history. However, senior year, he decided to take some accounting and business classes. After graduation, he continued taking accounting and business classes at Temple, earning enough business credits to take and pass the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) test in 1974.

After college, Marty held a couple of accounting jobs until September 1975, when he answered an ad for a local accounting firm, Blumberg, Seligman, Cupersmith & Company, LLP. The firm hired Marty as a CPA. He did well and was made partner in 1979. Many years later, in 2006, the firm split up, with Marty and Mr. Cupersmith forming Cupersmith, Wilensky, Stempler & Company, LLP. Marty is still a partner there, marking 47 years at the same firm and its successor.

Marty and Janice have three daughters and a son and four grandchildren. Their eldest daughter attended Gettysburg College, which resulted in many family outings to the battlefield at different times of the year while on college visits. She received her Master’s Degree in Micro-Biology from Johns Hopkins and lives with her husband and two children in California.

A second daughter is an engineer currently living in Ohio with her husband and twin boys. A third daughter is an attorney in Chicago, while their son is an attorney with the DC Capital Police. On January 6, 2021, he was monitoring the actions of the police officers during that day’s election protests. At some point, things escalated and he had a difficult time making it back safely to the police station when some protestors became more confrontational.

Marty taught his children the importance of history. In 1998, when the family took a vacation to Hawaii, he took them to Pearl Harbor so they would know what happened there and the sacrifices made by our military. Their visit to the Arizona Memorial was an emotional experience.

Marty enjoys reading about the Civil War. One of the first Civil War books he liked was Bruce Catton’s Grant Takes Command. He also enjoyed Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, as well as the various historical novels by Shaara’s son, Jeff.

In addition to history, Marty’s interests include Lionel trains. As a kid growing up, Marty remembers his dad setting up Lionel trains in the basement at Christmas and the fun he and his brothers had playing with them. So, when he and Janice moved into their home, Marty began collecting Lionel trains as well. He, too, set up his trains in the basement where his children could play with them. He still has his train collection, though they don’t see as much action now that his children have grown and moved on.

So how did Marty team up with Old Baldy? Well, a few years ago, one of our members, Harry Jenkins, happened to be driving by Marty’s office in Cherry Hill, NJ. Harry and Marty had been friends in Junior High School but had not seen each other in years. Harry saw Marty’s name on the firm’s sign and wondered whether this was the same Martin Wilensky he knew back in school. And in fact, it was. Marty ended up doing Harry’s taxes and Harry encouraged Marty to join the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table.

We are happy to have Marty as a member of Old Baldy. And all thanks to a fortuitous outing by his old Junior High School friend, Harry Jenkins.

By Jim Heenehan

Joe Fafara — Member Profile

Joseph Fafara was born in Roxborough, Philadelphia, in March of 1969. He grew up in Philadelphia and lived with his parents and brother in Marlboro. As a child, he enjoyed playing baseball, music, and the Civil War. He went to school at La Salle College High School, a private, Catholic, all-boys preparatory school in Philadelphia. After he graduated in 1987, he went to college at Temple University and graduated in 1992. He then went on to become a high school teacher for the School District of Philadelphia where he teaches U.S. history and U.S. government.

After meeting her at a wedding, Joseph married his wife Cathy in 1999. They had three daughters together named Jasmine, Abrielle, and Jordan. They now have two grandchildren, Alex and Alea, who live nearby and visit once a week. Joseph’s hobbies are similar to his hobbies as a child, as he watches baseball, listens to live music, and is still interested in the Civil War. He also enjoys playing the game Wordle and drinking craft beer. He and Cathy go on walks together on the Valley Green and Forbidden Drive trails in Philadelphia. They plan on retiring and moving to Nashville in two years.

He became interested in the Civil War when he read the Time-Life Civil War book series when he was in grade school. This series highlights the many battles and campaigns that took place during the war with each book focusing on a Civil War different topic. A childhood trip to the Gettysburg battlefield also piqued his interest. These things jump started a lifetime hobby and a career surrounding history. As well as the Civil War, Joseph is interested in history about U.S. presidents, the American Revolution, and Americans exploring the West.

Joseph joined the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table after he learned about the group in his time at Temple University. He is a member of many other history-related groups as well. The Surratt Society is a group dedicated to learning about the Lincoln assassination and the Surratt House. This group has monthly newsletters and plans tours to share information about the assassination and the events caused by it. The Blue and Gray Education Society raises money for the preservation of Civil War settings and plans tours surrounding early American history. The Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides of Gettysburg has events in Gettysburg for its members as well as a newsletter. The National Civil War Museum gives members access to free admission, tours with the curator, and a quarterly newsletter. The Adams County Historical Society houses artifacts and records pertaining to Gettysburg and raises funds for a new museum called Beyond the Battle.

Bill Sia — Member Profile

When you first meet William (Bill) Sia, you quickly notice his sense of humor. Chat with him for a good while and you come away knowing more than you ever thought possible about American history and the workings of his country’s government. “I’m the only guy I know who walks around with a copy of the Constitution in his back pocket.”

Born in 1945 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Bill, one of six children, had an idyllic childhood. He idolized his Dad, a veteran of the second World War, who labored in a coal mine (the only job available) for five years before moving his family 120 miles down the road to Levittown to work in a steel mill. Ten-year-old Bill thought he had moved to suburban heaven. “We bought a house, schools went up, I could ride my bike anywhere, my Mom and Dad filled the house with books – it was great growing up there.”

After graduating in 1963 from Woodrow Wilson High School, Bill set out to become a teacher. In 1967 he earned a B.A. at King’s College and then went on to teach American Government and History to seniors at Pennsauken High School (NJ) for 35 years. He earned a M.A. at Trenton State College in 1982. Bill, a member of the New Jersey Education Association, credits his parents and teachers with his career success. “They steered me to entrench myself in the activities of reading and studying. Even my professors. They all set a good example.”

While working at Pennsauken H.S. Bill met Ed Komczyk, then a math teacher and friend of Old Baldy Civil War Round Table. Ed would mention a group meeting to Bill, Bill would say yeah, let’s go, and together they would take a train to the Civil War Museum on Pine Street in Philly. They enjoyed those early days of discussions and camaraderie, through the group’s move to the Union League and now – with the help of Bill Hughes and others – at Camden County College. “This is where I met a very bright and talented group.”

Fast forward 25 years and Bill and Ed remain great friends and loyal Round Table members. Although Bill continues to harbor an interest in the Civil War, he is drawn primarily to the areas of pre-war influences and Reconstruction, a topic he has presented at the Round Table. Bill is extremely proud of the Old Baldy crew. “I can’t get over how smart people are in the group. They are so knowledgeable.”

Fellow Old Baldy members may be surprised at how knowledgeable Bill is at something totally unrelated to the U.S. Civil War and that is building race cars. With the help of their tech- savvy Dad, Bill and his brother built a 1963 Triumph that they took to the car hill climb competitions in Wilkes-Barre in the 70s. They painted the car red, white, and blue – with stars. The car is long gone (two rich guys bought it; Bill has regrets) but Bill’s brother has the frame of a MGB sitting in his garage waiting for a body. Constructing another racer is certainly on Bill’s bucket list. Right now, though, he is having too much fun traveling to NASCAR races with his brother.

Bill lives in Marlton, NJ with his wife and college sweetheart, Anna. She is a retired nurse. They have been married for 50 years and have one son, Brian, a computer engineer working at McGuire AFB in NJ.

Profile written by Kim Weaver

Meeting of November 10, 2022

Chuck Veit on “A Lively Little Battle: New Perspectives on the Battle of Fort Butler, Donaldsonville, LA, 28 June 1863”.

The little-known Civil War engagement at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, is the Battle of Fort Butler, which saw a ragtag collection of 200 Union soldiers (mostly invalids) unaccountably repel the assault of a 1700-man Confederate force in the early morning hours of 28 June 1863. Lively Little Battle, as one contemporary newspaper described the action, includes multiple eyewitness accounts (the majority never before referenced) with every stage of the action diagramed with maps based on a previously undiscovered 1863 plan of the fort found in the National Archives. The story told in this book and the conclusion drawn shine a new and different light on this small and long-misunderstood action.

Chuck Veit is the author of original research books, including A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the Navy’s Civil War; Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Rocket Torpedo; Natural Genius: Brutus de Villeroi and the U.S. Navy’s First Submarine; and two books focusing on the salvage exploits of Massachusetts native, John E. Gowen: Raising Missouri and The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol. Sea Miner claimed the 2016 award for Narrative Non-fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England, and Yankee Expedition won awards in both the Perennial Seller category and Book of the Year in 2017.

As President of the Navy & Marine Living History Association, Chuck has presented naval history at living history events, lectures, and conferences including NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Education Conference, the 2012 Civil War Navy Conference at the Mariners’ Museum, the Naval War College, and the Naval Order of the United States at Jacksonville. As a freelance graphic designer, Chuck has taught Graphic Design at the university level and in a corporate environment. He holds a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and Historical Linguistics, and a Masters in Historical Linguistics from Clark University.

CWRT Congress 2022 Wally Rueckel Innovation Award

Old Baldy Receives the CWRT Congress 2022 Wally Rueckel Innovation Award

The Wallace L. Rueckel Innovation Award celebrates the CWRT that has successfully sought to improve their organization in a variety of ways. The award for 2022 was presented in this video.

Meeting of October 13, 2022

Jim Remsen and Brad Upp on “Back From Battle: The Forgotten Story of Pennsylvania’s Camp Discharge and the Weary Civil War Soldiers It Served”

In the final year of the American Civil War, a special Union Army post was constructed just outside Philadelphia to handle a jumble of returning citizen-soldiers.

Many soldiers bore bullet wounds, broken bones, and other scars of combat. Some had lost limbs. Some were laid low by illness. Hundreds arrived half-dead as survivors of wretched prison camps. Others were blessedly unscathed—but all grappled with the fresh, ferocious memories of their time at war.

The post, known as Camp Discharge, did its best to move the young Union veterans on to their next assignment or, more often, back to civilian life. During its brief existence, it sat on a bluff overlooking what is today one of the nation’s busiest highways, the Schuylkill Expressway. The post was quickly dismantled, its story forgotten. The authors reclaim that remarkable history and trace the often tumultuous lives of the Pennsylvania volunteer soldiers who passed through Camp Discharge’s gates.

Jim Remsen is a journalist and author of several prior books; The Intermarriage Handbook; Visions of Teaoga; and Embattled Freedom. Since retiring as Religion Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim has pursued his keen interest in history, with a focus on underappreciated aspects of our nation’s local histories.

Jim Remsen and Brad Upp

Brad Upp is a board member of the Lower Merion Historical Society and a former educator. His upbringing near Camp Discharge stoked a fascination with history and led him to become a Civil War historian, relic hunter and re-enactor representing the 69th Pennsylvania Infantry. Brad is a skilled collector of artifacts from various periods of history, a passion that has taken him to a myriad of locations throughout the United States.