April 30, 1953 – November 25, 2018
Serota, Gail Dorff, 65, beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, friend, law partner, councilmember, Sisterhood president, marathon runner, and gift to the community, passed away on November 25, 2018, after a tragic snorkeling accident. She lived a remarkable life, filled with love, commitment, and joy, while illuminating the lives of everyone around her.
One of four sisters, Gail was born on April 30, 1953 in Passaic, New Jersey. After being Student Council President and Valedictorian of her high school class, Gail went on to Princeton in 1971. It was there, during her sophomore year, that she met her future husband and best friend, Joseph Serota, in Hebrew 101. Impressed by her impeccable note-taking skills, Joe—who borrowed her notes after struggling to make it to their 8:30 am class—asked her to his brother’s graduation dance in the Spring of 1973. That night, the connection was obvious, immediate, and arresting. They started dating and fell in love.
Gail graduated from Princeton magna cum laude and phi beta kappa in 1975. She then spent a year working as a paralegal for Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City, traveling down to Miami every other weekend to visit Joe, who had started law school at the University of Miami. The following year, 1976, Gail started law school. She was admitted to Stanford but turned it down for Miami so that she could be with Joe.
Gail graduated from Miami in 1979 second in her class, with a near-perfect academic record. Beyond scholastic success, Gail also cultivated a record of success as a marathon runner, finishing the 1980 Orange Bowl marathon first in the women’s division. That same year, Gail and Joe were married in New Jersey. It was a small and intimate ceremony. They never went on a honeymoon, but stayed at the Pierre Hotel in New York City for a memorable few days. Gail and Joe loved their lives in Miami, and committed themselves to the community.
After graduating from law school, Gail clerked for federal appellate judge Peter Fay, and then started her career as a lawyer at the law firm Arky Freed, which later became Stearns Weaver, where she made partner. Soon thereafter, Joe and his two law partners started Weiss Serota Helfman, and decided that they could really benefit from Gail’s unique legal expertise and acumen. So she came on board and worked there for 25 years, making partner there as well.
Along the way, Gail and Joe decided to start a family. Gail had three boys—Michael, David, and Nathan—while for many years managing a flourishing legal practice. Ultimately, though, Gail’s boys were always the focal point of her life, and there was nothing that she wouldn’t do for them. And Gail meant the world to her boys, modeling how to live an ethical life through acts of generosity both large and small.
Gail was her boys’ strongest advocate, wellspring of support, and consummate editor. She took a pure and sincere interest in everything they did, and was always open to their ideas, however bizarre or insignificant they might be. Gail was also there—both
physically and emotionally—for every success and failure in her boys’ lives, traveling around the country (and world) to be with them up until the time of her passing.
While parenting, Gail also dedicated herself to her community. She started out on the Pinecrest Planning Board in 2002, and then ran for city council in 2004. She served on the council from 2004 to 2008, and then, in 2008, ran for mayor of Pinecrest and just barely lost. From there, Gail went on to serve as President of the Princeton Club of South Florida and President of the Sisterhood at Bet Shira, alongside Joe, who was President of Bet Shira. She was deeply committed to the synagogue and Joe was always so proud to introduce her on Saturday mornings during their co-presidency.
In the years after her boys left for college, Gail returned back to her bustling real estate practice at Weiss Serota. She also immersed herself in two final roles. The first was that of mother-in-law to Michael’s wife, Michelle, and David’s wife, Zabrina, with whom Gail developed meaningful, deep, and loving relationships. The second role was that of grandmother to Michael’s three-year-old daughter Maya, to whom Gail was affectionately known as Gigi. Falling in love with Maya was one of the greatest joys of Gail’s life. They enjoyed swimming and playing at Matheson Hammock together, among other activities.
While Gail lived a life of achievement, there’s little question that her greatest accomplishment was her relationship with Joe, with whom she shared a connection that was so deep and complete as to defy words. They were each other’s best friend, mentor, and rock of support. They laughed, cried, planned, succeeded, and raised a family together in lock step. They always demanded excellence from one another, were constantly trying to make each other better people, and always started the day together on the same page, part of the same team. And as a team they accomplished incredible things—not only for their family, but also for their friends, colleagues, and community.
Gail is survived by her husband Joseph Serota, sons Michael (Michelle) Serota, David (Zabrina) Serota, and Nathan Serota, granddaughter Maya Serota, and sisters Summer Brown, Susan Lowe, and Amy Goldstein. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Gail Serota’s honor to either the Jackson Health Foundation, https://jacksonhealthfoundation.org/donate or the Children’s Home Society of South Florida, https://www.chsfl.org/donate.
- Funeral Service Wednesday, November 28, 2018
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November 26, 2018
To Joe and Gail's precious "boys" -- I cannot imagine your shock and pain. Gail was an exceptional person in every way -- daughter, wife, sister, mother, lawyer, community participant. She did it all with warmth, humor, class, beauty and grace. We have all lost a light in our lives, and of course you most of all. Sending love and sincerest sympathy.