Passed away peacefully on November 2, 2023, at the age of 95.
Graveside services will be held privately.
The family will sit Shiva on SUNDAY November 5, 2023 from 3 – 5 PM in The Adult Lounge at Temple B’rith Kodesh (2131 Elmwood Avenue). CLICK HERE for a map to Temple.
Donations may be made to Temple B’rith Kodesh (CLICK HERE to donate online) or The Michael J. Fox Foundation (CLICK HERE to donate online) in Adelaide’s memory.
Our mom Adelaide Cecile Harris passed away on November 2nd, 2023, at the age of 95 at the Jewish Home of Rochester after four long years dealing with Parkinson’s disease and related dementia. These years came after a full, active, and joyful life, but they were very tough years for mom and for all of us who loved her. Through these years, as her mind failed her, she still called us by name and gave us kisses. She would often say as we were leaving, “Drive safely!” In Cathy’s case, she would add, “You’ve got to slow down!” For Robin, she’d say, “Where’s your hat?!” and “You’re not dressed warmly enough!”
Our mom was born in NY City, on July 30, 1928, into a close-knit Jewish family, all of whom were immigrants from Eastern Europe. She and her younger sister Marcia always felt loved and cared for by their parents, Abe and Mary, who worked hard to support themselves and their two daughters.
At first Abe was a vender selling pickles and other “appetizers” on the streets of the Lower East Side and then a butcher in his brother-in-law’s store, and Mary was the home maker, there for her kids who talked with her about everything. Family, hard work, the love of food, a focus on bettering oneself and appreciating life’s precious moments, these were all values our mom and her sister Marcia learned from their parents, took to heart and passed on to us and our cousins.
By the time the girls were in school, their family and many of their extended family had moved to Schenectady, NY. Later, Adelaide, working as a secretary, met our dad Lee, who was then an engineer at General Electric. They met at a dance at the Jewish Community Center, where Lee, as explained to us in detail on numerous occasions, immediately fell for our mom, who was pretty, smart, and lively and had more dates than she could manage.
Mom, who always thought through her decisions very carefully, took a bit longer, but soon followed suit, falling in love and marrying our nerdy, kind dad and having us, Robin and Cathy, two daughters who have been friends for life. Our mom nourished this friendship, letting us work out our own conflicts and encouraging us to respect, love and be there for one another. This was such a precious gift as was our sweet friendship with our cousins, Deb and Larry, Marcia and Marvin’s kids. We got together regularly throughout our childhood and adolescence and stayed close throughout the years and through good times and bad, growing up, dating, marriages, babies and to the present day. These relationships were nurtured in the early years by mom and Marcia who always wanted us to be friends, and we are. That includes their wonderful partners, Bruce (Deb’s husband) and Tara (Larry’s wife). Throughout the years, Marcia and Mom always kept in touch and loved one another, nurturing a strong sense of family.
Sadly, dad lost both his parents by the time he was 20 years old, and he quickly embraced his adopted “Pa” and “Ma” and became a son to Mary and Abe. When mom was about 30 and Marcia was in her mid-20s (and married to Marvin), Mary passed away from cancer which left both girls, now with children of their own (Robin, Cathy, Debbie, Larry) deeply bereft and even more committed to holding family close. Mom always felt connected with her mother, even after death. We fondly remember mom lighting Shabbos candles and having a good chat with her own mom. We would stand next to her, with draped dish towels covering our heads and eyes closed, praying together.
After our grandma died, our family moved into grandpa’s bungalow in Schenectady for several years. Mom, a high school graduate, started early on taking prerequisites needed to enroll in college. Dad meanwhile earned his degree in Physics which allowed him to be hired by Xerox in Rochester to do research. In our new home, mom continued her education, first obtaining her bachelor’s degree and then going on to earn her master’s degree in education. Mom found her niche at the Equal Opportunity Center in downtown Rochester where she taught adults who needed encouragement and remedial education before they could successfully apply to college. Mom was always passionate about learning and growing as a person and encouraged us to do the same.
During most of our childhood and teenage years, mom was pursuing her education and often working at internships as well. She did all of this and never missed a beat. Dinner was always on the table, white cakes with chocolate frosting frequently greeted us after school, and her ear was ever available to listen to all our trials and tribulations. This is not to say that mom was perfect; at times she lost her temper with all that she had on her plate. But we always knew that her family was her top priority and never doubted it. In addition, our grandpa lived with us while we were in high school and college, a blessing overall though not without its challenges. We loved playing checkers and cards with Grandpa using his red hassock as our table. We also had so much fun raking leaves with him. He enriched all our lives.
As we grew, Mom was very involved with us and our families and joyful that we had found loving partners. She cherished her grandchildren: Marc, Ryan, Rachel (Cathy and Larry) and Ben and Annie (Robin and Hilary). All our many pets, especially the dogs, also had a special place in her heart. Living five minutes away from Cathy’s family, she often baked bread and cooked with Rachel and took each child out for breakfasts and lunches to connect individually. Cathy frequently dropped by to see mom for a good talk, and Cathy’s door was always open to her and our dad. Mom was a HUGE help as Cathy was raising her kids, giving good advice that sometimes was ignored but inevitably became part of Cathy’s bag of tricks in raising three kids.
Although Robin’s family was a long day’s drive away, Robin and mom were in constant phone contact, and mom and dad visited regularly and vice versa. It was always good to have this precious time together and to anticipate all the food mom would load on Robin’s counters and all the talking and laughing they would do during her visits. Sometimes, when Robin’s family was making the trip to Rochester, Ben and Annie would sing multiple verses of “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go.” When the kids were younger, mom loved baking and cooking with them and taking walks. As they grew, she listened to them talk about their lives, celebrating their successes and expressing sympathy when they were having challenges. Ben often called to fill her in on what was new with him, and Annie sent her beautiful handmade cards which our mom cherished. Mom was so happy when Annie got married to her partner Dan and would have been thrilled to meet her 6-month-old great-granddaughter Logan. She also had the opportunity to meet Ben’s fiancée Julia and had a sweet visit with the two of them at the Jewish Home.
For many years, mom was a docent at the Eastman House and often took our families there, with all the grandchildren, for the holiday display of Gingerbread Creations. We all adored doing this together, and it was special fun because mom took us in the back way, and we got to see parts of Eastman that the public didn’t see. Our kids remember this vividly and very fondly.
Mom and Dad deeply loved and respected one another, disagreeing at times but doing everything together. They enjoyed traveling, walking, just sitting down to dinner and talking or watching a favorite TV show together. Mom enjoyed their conversations about current events and pretty much everything else. Throughout the many years when dad struggled with cardiac issues, which culminated in congestive heart failure, mom was always by his side, advocating when necessary but always leaving space for him to be heard. Robin recalls a time when dad, whose voice was damaged due to strokes, was bypassed by a health provider who instead directed her comments to mom. Mom was very clear that dad had his own voice and asked the provider to speak to him. Throughout those years, she provided her steady support including nursing him at home for the last three months of his life. After dad’s death, Mom lived for ten years without a partner, mourning dad deeply but continuing to engage in life and to manage her own affairs.
Then, to her surprise, mom, who coached at a seniors’ computer training center, struck up a friendship with fellow coach Irv Koff and got his romantic attention without knowing it. Later, when he asked her out, she warily accepted his offer for dinner but paid for herself. She pondered with both of us the notion of having a “boyfriend” at her age. She thought it might be silly and laughed about it. We heartily endorsed the match which blossomed over the weeks, months and years and lasted 15 years until Irv’s death. It was a true joy for mom in her older years.
Mom’s life was a life well-lived. May her memory be for a blessing, always.