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East Rockaway mayor Ed Sieban dies at 49

Ed Sieban, the mayor of East Rockaway and chief of staff to the Hempstead Town Board's Republican majority, has died at 49.

Sieban, who had been in good health and was in remission from thyroid cancer since 1994, died after being hospitalized for pancreatitis. He had been admitted to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola Friday for stomach pains, said his wife of 17 years, Thea, 46.

During three years as mayor of the one-square-mile village, Sieban invigorated local government by encouraging colleagues to voice divergent opinions and seeking community input on plans for the future, elected officials said.

In one such move, Sieban appointed as his deputy mayor Richard Meagher, a trustee with whom he had "jousted" over budget issues, Meagher said.

"He did not seek to find nodding heads but instead wanted to have a lively interplay," he said. "He had lots of ideas but he encouraged each of us to express our own vision."

A native of Floral Park, Sieban settled in East Rockaway in 1993 and quickly became active in the village, joining the local Republican committee, volunteer groups and a Catholic parish. "He loved the community . . . he saw it as a small, tight-knit community," Thea said. "He had a sense of civic duty that you don't see in a lot of people."

After serving for eight years as village trustee, Sieban became mayor in 2007 in an uncontested election.

In the past year, Sieban spoke to dozens of local groups about the redevelopment of an industrial zone. Even as some residents criticized a plan to build housing in the zone at two village-wide meetings, Sieban heard the comments and asked board members to broaden their search for solutions.

"He really found his calling when he became the mayor," said Town of Hempstead Republican Councilman Anthony Santino of East Rockaway, a mentor and friend to Sieban. As counsel to the town board, "he wasn't afraid to tell me things he thought I wouldn't want to hear . . . and that's what I respected and appreciated the most," he said.

Sieban was an adjunct professor of law at St. John's University in Queens. He graduated from Chaminade High School in Mineola, St. John's University and New York Law School.

In 2007, Sieban founded the Stars and Stripes festival on the village waterfront to celebrate the lead-up to the Fourth of July each year. This year, he missed the fireworks show on Friday because he was hospitalized.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his father, Edward Sieban, 72, of Greenport; brother Tim Sieban, 46, of New Hyde Park; sister Katherine Gallagher, 47, of Oyster Bay; and four children: Teddy, 15, Thea, 14, Elizabeth, 12, and Tommy, 11.

Viewings are set for Wednesday and Thursday at Donza Funeral Home, on Atlantic Avenue in East Rockaway. The viewings are from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass is to be celebrated Friday at St. Raymond of Penyafort Roman Catholic Church in East Rockaway.

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