GLENVILLE – Joan Spencer Szablewski’s fascination with history didn’t really start until the death of an aunt, but once she started looking into the past her zest for research never waned.
A Scotia native and longtime Glenville resident, Szablewski died Friday at the age of 91. She was appointed the town of Glenville historian in 1991 and remained in that position until her death.
“We spent a lot of time talking about Glenville history, and she taught me so much,” said Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “She was a wonderful woman with a great sense of humor, always laughing and smiling. Whatever you asked of her, she got it done.”
Under Szablewski’s watch, in 2005, the town of Glenville created the Glenville History Center at 24 Glenridge Road, bringing together some town files from past historians along with a sizable collection of local history she had put together herself. Around that same time, Szablewski also worked with a committee from the Schenectady County Historical Society on the Arcadia book, “Images of Glenville.” On that committee, working with Szablewski was Ann and Jim Eignor of Glenville, longtime volunteers at the historical society.
“She was a good soul, and a very good person to work with,” Ann Eignor said of Szablewski. “She was very knowledgable and very helpful, and really knew all about her collection.”
At times, the committee would meet at the historical society in Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood, and on other occasions they would convene at the Glenville History Center.
“She had a whole bunch of people volunteering with her, and they all seemed to know what they were doing,” said Jim Eignor. “She was a nice woman. She really knew her business and so did her volunteers.”
One of Szablewski’s last projects was a history of town supervisors in Glenville.
“She was very proud of putting it together, and I think she was also proud to tell me that I was the longest-serving town supervisor in Glenville history, in terms of continuous service,” said Koetzle. “Mr. Sanders back in the 1800s served longer but not continuous. She really put together a nice history, and you could tell she really enjoyed doing that research.”
In a Gazette story from 2009, Szablewski said she didn’t become interested in history until she was in her 30s following the death of her father’s sister.
“I went over to the house to help my cousins clean out the place, and one of them asked me to get rid of this box with a lot of pictures in it,” Szablewski said. “So I told her, ‘sure,’ and that’s what got me going. My father was still alive at the time, so I took the box over to his house and we went through it. It was unbelievable all the information and things we found. Since that day, I’ve been interested in history.”
A 1949 graduate of Scotia-Glenville High School, Joan Spencer married Stanley Szablewski and the couple were married for 63 years before Stanley passed away in 2017. The couple had two children and two grandchildren.
“She was a very nice lady, and very helpful when she worked on the Glenville book with us,” said Kim Mabee, former president of the Schenectady County Historical Society and currently regent of Schenectada, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “She also let us store some old Larry Hart books up at the history center in Glenville when we had no room for them at the historical society.”