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California (Pa.) University's Civil War Roundtable needs more chairs

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Frank and Bonnie Orlando of Gettysburg portrayed Gen. Robert E. and Mary Ann Custis Lee at the April meeting of the California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable.

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Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 7:32 p.m.

Since the Civil War Roundtable began at California University of Pennsylvania, its membership has grown.

But as the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War proceeds, interest in the roundtable has grown.

“We've had some pretty significant increases in our attendance,” said Walt Klorczyk of Monongahela, who books the monthly speakers for the group. “We started with 20-25 people, and now we're getting 60 or more.”

Klorczyk has been with the roundtable since its inception.

It started when he went to Cal U, where members of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Re-enactors were holding a camp-out on the grounds of the student union.

He met Mike Watson of Charleroi, the brother of Klorczyk's neighbor in Carroll Township.

Watson had a plan to form a Civil War Roundtable, so Klorczyk took him to a meeting of the Greater Greensburg Civil War Roundtable.

“He got ideas there, and I told him I'd help him out finding speakers from Greensburg,” Klorczyk said.

The inaugural meeting of the Cal U Roundtable was held in October 2006, around an actual round table in the Manderino Library on the university campus.

California University history professor Dr. Clarissa Confer encouraged Watson to form the roundtable, and Klorczyk agreed to help.

From the beginning, Klorczyk has recruited speakers for the roundtable's monthly meetings.

But has the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, drawn interest in the local roundtable?

“I would hope so,” Klorczyk said. “We've had better attendance since then. Sometimes it's relative to the topic. Basically a lot of first-person and people talking about their families who served during the war which draws people.”

Klorczyk said most people like speakers who recall the first-hand experiences of the Civil War, often through the words of their descendants who fought in the conflict.

In March, author Mark Miner presented “The Civil War Diaries of Ephraim Miner.” The May meeting featured Dan Clendaniel, whose two relatives, John and Steven Clendaniel, served in the Union Army.

This April, Frank and Bonnie Orlando of Gettysburg portrayed Gen. Robert E. and Mary Ann Custis Lee.

In June, the roundtable hosted “An Evening with Clara Barton” by Jennifer Zukowski of Pittsburgh. Ken Williams, a re-enactor and former Gettysburg ranger, spoke at the July meeting on “The Aftermath of Gettysburg.”

The August session featured “The Wounded of James Longstreet” during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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