Wildwood Historical Society
Four rooms at Wildwood Historical Society museum dedicated to former museum presidents
WILDWOOD -- Rooms at the city’s historical museum telling stories of the Wildwoods’ veterans, first responders, schools and athletes were dedicated to four past Wildwood Historical Society presidents at a ceremony Sunday, October 16.
Al Brannen and Larry Lillo, both of Wildwood, and Bob Scully and Anne Vinci, both of North Wildwood, were the honorees. Four plaques were presented, each bearing the name of a dedicated room, and all of which will be affixed to the entrance to their respective rooms.
“Every one of these people helped push the museum forward significantly,” Brannen, an emeritus member, said after his plaque was revealed.
The current board told the four they would be honored but the dedication of rooms was a surprise that was revealed at the ceremony.
“It was difficult to keep this a secret, but the payoff was worth it,” said society president Taylor Henry. “The honorees were visibly moved that their many lifelong contributions to the historical society will forever be remembered, as their names will be permanently affixed to the museum.”
Brannen is a Coast Guard veteran who was responsible for reviving the previously inactive Wildwood Historical Society in the 1970s. After George Boyer, the founder and namesake of the museum, died in 1976, there was no one to keep the society going until Brannen became president.
The society under Brannen’s leadership grew from a room of artifacts in city hall to the large building on Pacific Avenue that houses the museum today. Al served on the historical society in one capacity or another for the next several decades, finally retiring in 2021.
Because of his focus on preserving the stories of the islands’ veterans and military members, the board dedicated the room about veterans as the Al Brannen Military Room.
Lillo, who currently serves as the society’s secretary, is the longest-serving still-active board member, having served since the 1970s.
Lillo worked 25 years on the Wildwood Fire Department, including a time as Fire Captain. He also was a lifeguard with the Wildwood Beach Patrol.
In 1994, Lillo, a lifelong train enthusiast, opened Holly Beach Train Depot in the same Pacific Avenue building that housed his father’s barbershop for over 70 years.
“To recognize his contributions to the city, the safety of its residents and visitors, and to this museum, the Wildwood Historical Society dedicates the first responder exhibit as the Larry Lillo First Responder Room,” Henry said.
Scully, an emeritus member, began his time as president in the late 1990s, during which time he co-authored the book, “Wildwood by the Sea: The History of an American Resort.”
The Scully family goes back to the beginnings of the Wildwoods. Bob’s grandfather Christopher J. Scully arrived in South Jersey in 1892 and founded a construction company that built such still-standing landmarks as St. Ann’s Church, the 15th Avenue firehouse in North Wildwood, and Wildwood Catholic High School.
Bob graduated from the same school built by his relatives only a few years prior. A basketball player, he was chosen for the 1951 New Jersey All-State Parochial Quartet.
In honor of his legacy as a star athlete and alum of Wildwood Catholic, the Wildwood Historical Society dedicated the school and sports exhibit as the Robert J. Scully School and Sports Room.
Vinci was the society’s first woman president. She was responsible for starting the ongoing Commemorative Brick Program fundraiser, where personalized bricks are cemented into the walkway outside the museum.
By the late 2000s, the museum collection was again getting too large for the space in which it was contained. Under Vinci’s leadership, the historical society undertook one of its largest and most challenging projects: construction of an addition in 2009.
Vinci retired from the board in 2014 but continues to volunteer. For her contributions to the growth of this museum, the addition she helped build was dedicated as the Anne Vinci Museum Annex.
About 50 people attended the ceremony, many of whom were family and friends of honorees.
“While many of those who contributed to the historical society have passed away, it’s important for us to celebrate those who are living,” Henry said. “Al, Larry, Bob and Anne all deserve to know how much they matter and how much of an impact they’ve made in their lifetimes.”
Visit the newly dedicated rooms at the Wildwood Historical Society, 3907 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ. Plan your trip online at wildwoodhistoricalmuseum.com.
Thank you to Dorothy from Sun by the Sea for the photos!