Bill Vogel, New London Republican stalwart, dead at 79

New London — Raymond "Bill" Vogel, a prominent city Republican, died Saturday. He was 79.

Vogel, a former U.S. Navy submarine commander, ran for mayor in 2015, when he lost to Mayor Michael Passero. He touted his leadership and management experience during the campaign.

Vogel was the longtime host of "New London Republicans," a local public-access cable TV show he started, until his death. He became active in local politics while living in Ledyard, where he was chairman of the Republican Town Committee for eight years. Vogel was also a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, which attempts to help New London citizens of all stripes stay involved in city affairs.

Vogel later became the Republican Town Committee chairman in New London, serving in the role for eight years before deciding not to seek another term in 2016.

"I have a public access television program myself, and my program followed Bill's," former New London Mayor Marty Olsen said Sunday. "Our paths would cross on the set change. Last week when I came in he wasn't there, which isn't necessarily unusual."

Olsen knew Vogel for about 10 years. He said he was "taken aback" by Vogel's death and called him both "hardworking" and "respected." He also said Vogel was vocal about his political thinking.

"I thought him to be someone who was very firm in his beliefs," Olsen said. "He hosted this public access television program for years and years and years where he articulated his views. After he stepped down as leader of the party, he continued to voice his opinions and concerns. He certainly was not shy in that regard."

In New London, a liberal enclave in a region full of liberal enclaves, Vogel was an exception. He penned many letters to the editor to The Day, the most recent published on Jan. 26.

Former City Councilor Adam Sprecace, who knew Vogel from their years on the town committee, said that if Vogel had a side on an issue, he would express it.

"He always brought a smile to your face, he was always pleasant, it was nice to see him around town," Sprecace said. "He spoke his mind in a thoughtful and considerate way. It is a big loss."

Vogel was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to serve 18 years in the Navy, rising through the ranks and serving on about five different submarines. He retired in 1982 as the commissioning captain of the USS Groton.

Military service is a family tradition.

Vogel's father, Raymond William Vogel Jr., was a Navy pilot who served in World War II and the Korean War. A carrier group commander, Vogel's father was shot down during a bombing operation in Korea. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. Vogel was 10 years old when his father died.

With a background in nuclear engineering, Vogel went to work for Northeast Utilities where, he said in  a 2015 Day article profiling him, that he helped manage a $500 million nuclear operation budget. He was part of a team that commissioned Millstone 3. He retired in 1997. He is survived by his spouse Sabina Piacenza, a longtime resident of New London.

Sprecace and Olsen both brought up Vogel's run for mayor. They expressed gratitude for Vogel's campaign because he filled a vacuum — Republicans otherwise wouldn't have been able to pose a challenge to Passero.

"Bill stepped up," Sprecace said. "I think he was almost reluctant to do so, but he knew there was a need, and he's always been mindful of this community and of the Republican Party, and he did a fantastic job. It's very difficult to run for elected office as a Republican in New London, but he stuck to the issues, he was firm but fair and friendly. He was just a great person."

Rob Pero, a member of the Board of Education and a friend of Vogel's, said Connecticut lost a good man.

"He was more than just chairman to me, he was a great friend," Pero said.

Pero also posted a tribute to Vogel on the New London Republicans Facebook page.

"I will miss Bill on a personal level because he reminds me so much of my own dad," Pero wrote. "Always willing to help out, give advice, and just listen when you needed a sounding board. Sending all our love and prayers to Sabina and her family. Wishing Bill fair winds and following seas in his new journey."

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