By CHARLIE HORNER
On July 4 the Asbury Park community lost one of its most knowledgeable historical preservationists. Tom Chesek seemed to know everything about the city’s history and culture and was always eager to share what he knew.
Tom’s activities are far too numerous to list here, and I will mention just a few. My wife, Pamela, and I first met Tom when we got involved with the Asbury Park Historical Society back in 2011. Tom was a trustee of the society, taking an active role in getting the organization’s headquarters, the Stephen Crane House, named to the State and National Lists of Historic Places. He lectured on behalf of the Historical Society and composed the Society’s printed newsletters. As the APHS’s writer in residence and program director, Tom curated the organizations’ collection of books and films, and planned, implemented and promoted the numerous events there. These included original plays, film screenings, lectures, readings and musical presentations. As a resident, Tom conducted hundreds of tours of the Crane House, for both the regularly scheduled open-house hours and for pre-arranged larger school and organization groups.
In 2018, when Kay Harris formed the Asbury Park Museum, Tom Chesek joined us as a member of the Museum’s Board of Directors. Tom was an integral part of our pop-exhibits, contributing research, writing text for and designing posters, and slides. It’s hard to imagine accomplishing what we did without Tom’s assistance.
Tom was a superb writer. After decades of contributing to various publications, he became a contributing writer for The Coaster in 2018. He had an extensive network of contacts in the New Jersey Shore entertainment and arts scene. Tom’s encyclopedia knowledge of Asbury Park led him to author the book, “Legendary Locals of Asbury Park.” This book is an incredible reference of virtually all aspects of Asbury Park history that only Tom could write. When copyrights could not be obtained for some of the photos, Tom took to illustrating pages in their place.
I’ve written about Tom Chesek’s skills and activities, but let me tell you about Tom, the person. Tom was one of the most dependable, results oriented, people we knew. He took on more work than most people could handlebut somehow got things done. He’d say, “I’m much too overloaded to take on that project now,” but he’d return in a week or so with the finished project. Tom loved to talk history, particularly Shore area history. He knew every scene of every movie that was ever shot in Asbury Park. While Tom was quick to offer help to others, he seldom asked for help in return.
Tom’s passing is a huge loss to the Asbury Park community, as much of what he knew about the city’s history is now lost forever. We’ll all miss his knowledge and talents. Most of all, we will miss him as a friend and colleague.
Charlie Horner is vice president of the Asbury Park Museum.