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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Katy Stoddard, 43, was an all-star athlete at Fitch, mother, coach

    Katy Stoddard, left, was a 1999 Fitch High School graduate and was named The Day’s All-Area Player of the Year in girls’ tennis and softball as a senior. Stoddard, pictured with husband Joey Sequara and daughters, Kayla, right, and Haley, died on June 9 at the age of 43. (Photo courtesy of Joey Sequara)
    Katy Stoddard, left, with her husband Joey Sequara, was set to begin coaching the Groton/Mystic Little League softball team in the District 10 tournament Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Joey Sequara)
    Katy Stoddard was a 1999 Fitch High School graduate where she was a three-sport athlete and also played travel softball for the Green Devils. (Photo courtesy of Joey Sequara)

    Katy Stoddard was the love of Joey Sequara’s life, beginning with the years he was the manager for the Fitch High School softball team and Katy the team’s star shortstop.

    Most recently, the two, in addition to raising their two daughters, Kayla and Haley, were preparing to coach the Groton/Mystic Little League softball all-star team together beginning with Saturday’s District 10 opener against Stonington, with Haley a member of the team.

    Stoddard, 43, died at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital on Sunday, June 9, after a brief illness, collapsing at home on June 3.

    “I’m so thankful,” Sequara said this week of their time together. “As I looked back, she was just so happy and filled with life. She just wanted to accomplish anything. She was competitive but she was sweet.

    “Anything good you can say about a person is what she was. I see it in her girls.”

    Stoddard was afflicted with a rare autoimmune disease called neuromyelitis optica (NMO), which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells, mainly in the optic nerve and spinal cord. She recovered from one serious bout with the disease, needing to reteach herself to walk, and underwent infusions every six months to keep the condition at bay.

    Unknowingly, however, Stoddard also contracted pneumonia, which caused her collapse. Sequara, who was home at the time, administered CPR while he awaited the ambulance. Stoddard never recovered.

    At first, Sequara said, he notified Mystic Little League, where he serves as the vice president of softball, that he would be stepping away from the all-star team. Haley had a different request.

    “The kids all loved Katy,” Sequara said. “Haley said, ‘I want to play.’ I said, ‘OK.’ She said, ‘Well, are you going to coach with me?’ Katy didn’t want anybody stopping and feeling sad for her. We’re still out here playing. That’s what she would want us to do.

    “It’s really, really heartbreaking but I think it’s an honor to see the girls through. I mean, Katy was all about being out here with all the girls. Katy would pile them all in her car and take them to tournaments. She was such a great mom, not just to our kids but to all the girls.”

    Katy Mae Stoddard, the middle of five children born to Russ and Amy Stoddard, leaves two brothers and two sisters, Russell, Joel, Jessica and Christian.

    She was a three-sport athlete at Fitch, tennis, basketball and softball, and captain in all three, graduating in 1999. During the fall tennis season her senior year, Stoddard was the Eastern Connecticut Conference and state singles champion, finishing 22-1, and in the spring season she batted .456 with 34 runs scored, leading the softball team to a 22-3 mark and a berth in the Class L state championship game.

    Stoddard was The Day’s All-Area Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year and later the newspaper’s All-Area Softball Player of the Year. She followed older sister Jessica to the tennis courts, while younger sister Christian was an all-star pitcher in softball.

    During the 1999 softball season, Stoddard stole home in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 1-0 win over Hand in the state tournament quarterfinals. She went through the season without striking out.

    East Lyme High School grad Amy (Frausini) Lloyd recalls getting to know Stoddard as a member of a softball travel team, the Green Devils. It was the relative infancy of travel softball, with players from opposing high schools during the regular season rooming together on the road for the summer.

    Lloyd immediately recognized Stoddard as a friend.

    “From the summer after our freshman year and every summer from then on,” Lloyd said this week. “Weekends we were in a hotel together. We always clicked since day 1. She was very charismatic. She could talk to anyone. She was very good at being a fast friend, a person that you can confide in them, ‘I can sit and talk to you.’ She made people feel at ease.

    “I’m going to miss her.”

    Lloyd posted a number of pictures on Facebook from her time with Stoddard on the Green Devils. There were no cell phones then, but Lloyd said they used to travel with instant cameras to capture all the silly moments.

    Lloyd speaks of one memory, in particular.

    “I let her cut my hair once,” Lloyd said. “I got fed up with it. I said, ‘You can cut it. It’s fine.’ She used Walmart craft scissors ... it came out amazing. She was just awesome. One of my favorite people. I think she had so many friends, friends with everybody.”

    Lloyd and Stoddard remained friends but in recent years had reached a milestone together, a full circle moment. Lloyd and her husband Pat have five daughters, a few of whom have played against Stoddard’s daughters.

    Amy and Pat’s daughter Brooke will oppose Katy and Joey’s daughter Haley in the District 10 12-year-old all-star tournament.

    Also, once during the high school season, Mia Lloyd was playing third base for the East Lyme softball team when Stoddard’s daughter, Kayla Gibson, landed on third base. Both girls were freshmen this year. Stoddard promptly took a photo and sent it to Lloyd.

    Lloyd last heard from her friend when her eldest daughter, Gracie, received the ECC Sportsmanship Award at the end of softball season. Stoddard sent Lloyd a snapshot of the newspaper clipping.

    “She said, ‘That’s amazing. You’re such a good mom,’” Lloyd said. “Just a thoughtful human being. It’s so special. You’re rooting for your friend’s kid the same way you’re rooting for your kid. Our kids are playing the sport we loved. We would laugh about the old times and the old memories.

    “It’s just awful. I feel so sad. We were teammates for a long time.”

    Sequara calls Stoddard his “rock” throughout his own bout with colon cancer in February, 2020. Together, the family rode out the pandemic in their then-condominium in Groton.

    Soon, he hopes to hold a celebration of life for Stoddard. His wish is to have a new scoreboard installed at the Groton Middle School field emblazoned with her name.

    Every day, Sequara, who is the assistant general manager at the Summer Shack restaurant at Mohegan Sun, returns to softball practice to help his team prepare for the District 10 tournament and it’s one of the best parts of his day.

    On Thursday, older daughter Kayla was pitching batting practice to the younger girls, the whole family together now with the team that Katy loved.

    Said Sequara: “I know she would be proud.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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