Old Lyme Town Clerk to retire after 20 years

Old Lyme Town Clerk Eileen Coffee, seen Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, at Old Lyme Town Hall, will retire on Jan. 2, 2017 (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)
Old Lyme Town Clerk Eileen Coffee, seen Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, at Old Lyme Town Hall, will retire on Jan. 2, 2017 (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)

Old Lyme — As Town Clerk, Eileen Coffee said she feels she is responsible for the history of the town.

From land sales to who is elected into office, she said her job is to keep accurate records because they will stay with the town forever.

After 20 years of helping to preserve the town's records — with about eight years as town clerk and 12 as assistant town clerk — Coffee will retire on Jan. 2. Vicki Urbowicz, the assistant town clerk, was elected in November to become town clerk and will step into the position as Coffee retires. The town is looking to fill the assistant town clerk position.

During her time in the town clerk's office, Coffee, 71, said she loved meeting people and helping them, such as when they are searching for a deed or map or other record.

"I've always enjoyed working with people, and I think working as a town clerk, you have a lot of connection with the townspeople and with all the new people moving in," Coffee added. "Even people moving out will stop by to say goodbye, and I appreciate things like that."

Her favorite part is when the brides and grooms come in for their marriage licenses. She estimates she has assisted with about 1,700 marriage licenses over her 20 years in office.

Newly married couples "are the happiest people who come into the office," she said.

Coffee counts as one of her major accomplishments her work to digitize information so it's easier for people to come in and research and also puts less wear and tear on the books. She said the office so far has digitized all the maps and records as far as 1974, and Urbowicz will continue for the town records, which date back to 1855.

Coffee, who has volunteered as a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, and is now on the board for Lymewood Elderly Housing, was born in New London. She said she went to work in Pfizer's plant personnel department after graduating from St. Bernard School. After she married her husband, Ken Coffee, whose family business is Coffees Country Market, she lived in Colorado for a time before returning to Connecticut.

Coffee said she worked for Pfizer again in Connecticut and then, after her second child was born, decided to stay home to raise her children. When her five children were older, she decided she wanted to return to work.

She was hired to work at Town Hall in social services with former social services Director Dorothy "Dottie" Weaver, in an office across the hall from the town clerk's office. After two years, there was an opening for an assistant town clerk and Coffee was hired by former Town Clerk Irene Carnell.

After 20 years, Coffee said it's time to retire. In her retirement, she said she plans to travel with her husband, visit her grandchildren and spend some time relaxing.

"I just felt it was time for the next person to take over, and I feel like I'm leaving it in very good hands," she said. "I'm proud to say that Vicki Urbowicz will be the next town clerk, and she'll do a great job."

Urbowicz, 49, a town resident since 1991, is married to Steven Urbowicz and has two children. She volunteers with the Special Olympics and has volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and with the Junior Women's Club.

Urbowicz, who has a background as a paralegal, said Coffee has been a "mentor and friend" since Coffee hired her in 2010.

"I would like to continue our friendly, efficient office," Urbowicz said. "I try to support the town and townspeople as much as possible."

k.drelich@theday.com

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