Former East Lyme first selectman remembered as unwavering mentor
East Lyme ― One of the legacies left by former first selectman and longtime volunteer Beth Hogan is in the people she recruited to advocate for East Lyme and the wider community.
Hogan died Tuesday after three years with pancreatic cancer. She was 64.
Resident Ann Cicchiello was in her garden during campaign season about a decade ago when Hogan stopped by while knocking on doors. She asked if Cicchiello wanted to get involved in politics.
“I said yes and I’ve never looked back,” Cicchiello recalled. She went on to become a Board of Finance member and is a current selectman.
Hogan was the first woman elected to the town’s top spot when she served from 2005-07. She was chairman of the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee for most of the past two decades.
Registrar of Voters Wendi Sims remembered Hogan reaching out to her on social media shortly after Sims moved to town from Nebraska in 2017. The newcomer’s comment on a progressive Facebook group about getting involved locally resulted in Hogan’s invitation to join the East Lyme Democrats.
“Probably most of us are there because of Beth. We’re functioning as a group because of Beth,” Sims said. “She found us.”
Sims last saw her mentor at the victory party for State Sen. Martha Marx, D-New London, in November. She said Hogan texted her in January to tell her she was in hospice care.
Hogan said things weren’t looking good, according to Sims. Then the longtime organizer gave her recruit a list of things to do.
“There was work to be done and Beth couldn’t leave it undone,” Sims said.
Marx, who is in her inaugural term after winning the seat vacated by former East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, recalled meeting Hogan for coffee at Muddy Waters in New London when Marx first decided to run back in 2018. They talked for three hours about policy issues, she said.
“She wasn’t going to talk about people; she wasn't going to gossip,” Marx said. “She was all about doing things.”
Hogan was married for 31 years to Conrad Seifert, who was also her law partner at Seifert and Hogan in Old Lyme. They have a daughter, Emily.
Seifert described his wife as an “incredible, dynamic, giving person,” adding she was humble enough not to want him to go on and on about her attributes.
Instead, he said he liked to joke that nobody wins all their appeals to the state Appellate or Supreme Court – except Hogan.
“The one time she did an appeal, she won it,” he said.
Seifert said Hogan was devoted to East Lyme and the state. He cited her involvement with housing, conservation, youth empowerment and job training organizations. She also served on the Board of Finance, Pension Board and, most recently, the Charter Revision Commission.
As director of government and community partnerships for The Connection, Inc., she worked to increase the availability of affordable housing. A recent and hard-fought project resulted in the opening of New London’s St. Mary Place, a 20-unit affordable housing complex where St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School used to be.
The Connection in a statement said Hogan has been instrumental in housing conversions since she joined the organization in 2008.
“Beth led a tremendous life of service to others and will be remembered as a compassionate and trusted friend and colleague,” president and CEO Lisa DeMatteis-Lepore said in the statement. “We will miss her quick wit, her passion for helping others, and her ability to bring joy to our lives.”
Paul Formica, who defeated Hogan in her second bid for first selectman and went on to become a state senator, remembered Hogan for her affordable housing work statewide and her commitment to the East Lyme community.
“We always had a very friendly and cordial relationship together,” he said. “We were respectful even though we had different policy opinions. I think she epitomized what East Lyme was all about.
Hogan ran unsuccessfully against state Rep. Holly Cheeseman for the 37th District House seat in 2016.
“Beth was a woman of incomparable grace,” Cheeseman said. “She had such a commitment to her community and her region. Our paths crossed often in the nonprofit sector, and I was always struck by her dedication to everyone.”
Sharon Hansen, now of Colorado, was a former chairman of the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee for one of the brief periods when Hogan stepped away. They were friends for more than two decades.
She described Hogan’s commitment to providing housing for populations including military veterans and children who had aged out of foster care. And then there was the smile everyone talked about.
“It is incredible,” Hansen said. “I spent a lot of time with Beth and I never saw her down or giving up.”
Hogan’s energy was unflagging, according to Hansen. Her mind was always at work.
“And nothing stopped her,” she said. “Except pancreatic cancer. And that’s not fair.”