Alice Hoagland, Grieving Inspiration in Gay Rugby, Dies at 71

Alice Hoagland, an inspirational figure for a gay rugby movement that her son, Mark Bingham, helped set in motion shortly before he perished in the 2001 terrorist attacks as one of the heroes of Flight 93, died on Dec 22 at her home in Los Gallos, Calif. She was 71.

Ms. Hoagland, a former flight attendant who became a safety activist while carrying on her son’s athletic legacy, had been living with Addison’s disease, according to a family friend, Amanda Mark, who confirmed the death. Ms. Hoagland’s death had not been immediately announced.

International Gay Rugby is an organization that traces its roots to a single team in London in 1995 and now consists of about 90 clubs in more than 20 countries on five continents. It held Ms. Hoagland in such high esteem that one prize awarded at its biennial Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament, also known as the Bingham Cup, is called the Hoagland Cup.

Scott Glaessgen of Norwalk, Conn., a friend of Mr. Bingham’s who helped organize the Gotham Knights rugby club in New York City, described meeting Ms. Hoagland at the first Bingham Cup, held in 2002 in San Francisco.

“Nine months after Mark was killed, and there she is with a never-ending smile on her face, just charming and engaging and happy and proud,” Mr. Glaessgen said. “And that resilience and that strength that she just exuded was really inspirational.”

Ms. Mark, of Sydney, Australia, said Ms. Hoagland had become an inspiration “that a lot of L.G.B.T. folks needed when they may have been challenged with their families or friends to be true to themselves.”

Ms. Hoagland was a celebrity at every tournament she attended. Players flocked to meet her and have a photo taken with her. She always obliged.

Mr. Bingham, who was 31 when he died, had played on a champion rugby team at the University of California, Berkeley. He helped organize the San Francisco Fog, a gay rugby team, in 2000 and became its main forward.

He was on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers commandeered it. He called his mother and told her he loved her.

“I only got three minutes with him, and when I tried to call back, I couldn’t get through,” Ms Hoagland told The Iowa City Press-Citizen in 2019. “As a flight attendant for 20 years, I wanted to tell him to sit down and don’t draw attention to yourself.”

But the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Mr. Bingham fought back, posthumously winning praise as an openly gay patriot who joined other passengers in foiling the hijackers and causing the plane to crash in rural Pennsylvania before it could reach its intended target, believed to be the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Bingham and Ms. Hoagland’s stories were chronicled in the television movie “Flight 93,” on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” and in the documentary “The Rugby Player.”

Ms. Hoagland became an advocate for improved airline security and for allowing relatives of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia over claims that it had played a role in the attacks.

“We’re less interested in any kind of financial gain than we are in bringing the truly guilty into court and making our case known,” she told The Associated Press in 2016.

The first Bingham Cup consisted of eight teams and was hosted by Mr. Bingham’s San Francisco team. Today it is billed as the world’s largest amateur rugby event, and cities bid to host it. It was last held in Amsterdam in 2018, with 74 teams competing.

In a post on the International Gay Rugby Facebook page, Jeff Wilson recalled a conversation with Ms. Hoagland at the 2012 Bingham Cup in Manchester, England, in which he told her that his mother had recently died.

“I asked how she kept on during grief,” he wrote. “She said it was a purpose, and a calling, and that I would keep going because it drove me.”

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