OBITUARY

Michelle R. Harris

February 26, 1961April 7, 2021

Michelle R. Harris of Middle­ton, formerly of Lynnfield, passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on April 7, 2021 at the age of 60 from metastatic cancer. She was born in Beverly, and grew up in Marblehead.

She is survived by her devoted husband Richard Sokolow, her daughters Amy and Janna Sokolow, her mother Jeanne Harris of Peabody, her sisters Tammy Harris of Framingham and Judy (Harris) Logan and husband Glenn of Belmont, her brother Robert Harris and wife Lydia of Belmont, and 14 nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her father David Sidney Harris.

Growing up, Michelle spent countless hours at Preston Beach in Marblehead with family and friends. She attended Camp Yavneh in Northwood, N.H., and performed in the Marblehead High School chorus and the musical Oliver!

After graduating near the top of her class, she attended Tufts University, where she earned a B.A. in economics. She later earned an MBA from Boston University. She was a lifelong learner, and recently took classes at Tufts’ Osher Institute.

In 1985-86, Michelle lived and worked in Israel, which sparked a deep passion for travel. Michelle’s many adventures included trips to Europe, the Caribbean, Canada and throughout the U.S. Her traveling companions were numerous, including her husband and daughters, siblings and cousins, and many friends.

Although Michelle and her future husband Rich grew up just blocks from one another in Marblehead, sang in their high school chorus together and both attended Tufts University, it wasn’t until 1989 when they finally connected at a dance for young Jewish professionals at the Roxy Club on Tremont Street in Boston, igniting a flame that led to 30 joyous years of marriage.

The birth of their two daughters in 1996 and 1998 marked the next great chapter in Michelle’s life. She reveled in her girls’ many musical performances and achievements from their earliest years through college. The fact that she, Rich, Amy and Janna are all graduates of Tufts University is a particular point of pride for Michelle and her family. Seeing her daughters launch their careers gave Michelle great satisfaction.

Michelle had a successful 30-year career as a marketing professional for many leading financial and consulting companies including Analysis Group, Wellington Management, DRI/McGraw-Hill and Applied Marketing Science. In recent years, she worked as a freelance writer and was a correspondent at the Jewish Journal newspaper. She also volunteered at organizations including Temple Tiferet Shalom, Temple Ner Tamid and the JCC. Most recently, she cherished the opportunity to teach English as a second language to new immigrants in Salem through Catholic Charities.

Michelle always had a love of words, and she enjoyed challenging her family and friends to games of Scrabble and Words with Friends. Completing the New York Times Spelling Bee and achieving genius status was a near daily occurrence! She was a fitness fanatic, and particularly enjoyed swimming laps at the pool and taking classes in yoga, strength training, and her favorite, Zumba! She was often at the gym six days a week, sometimes twice a day.

Michelle was quietly funny, loved planning adventures with her friends and was always the first and last on the dance floor. She was close with her three siblings, and also formed many cherished friendships throughout her life. She enjoyed playing Mahjong, cuddling with her little dog Izzy, spending time at her family’s second home in St. Petersburg, Fla. with family and friends and walking around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield. She always made time for a great slice of pizza, a cosmo or a scoop of Richardson’s coffee almond fudge ice cream. Michelle also had a great appreciation for the arts, and frequented museums and art galleries, live theater performances and Bruce Springsteen concerts. In the past year, she became an accomplished crafter, creating beautiful mosaic tiled mirrors that she sold online and gave out as treasured gifts.

In 2014, Michelle was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and received a double-lung transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The lifesaving procedure granted Michelle many wonderful and productive years. Michelle and her family are forever grateful to the UPMC transplant team, the love and support of all who visited her during that time, and especially for the generosity of her organ donor and family who gave Michelle the gift of life. Michelle will always be remembered for her bravery, grace and positivity despite her health issues.

Michelle’s final act was one of tikkun olam and a reflection of her generous and caring nature. In 2020, she and her husband established the Richard Sokolow and Michelle Harris Charitable Fund to make grants and donations to Michelle’s and her family’s favorite causes, which Rich, Amy and Janna will administer on an annual basis for years to come.

Funeral services for Michelle will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a non-profit that manages the nation’s organ transplant system and connects organ donors to patients in need of a lifesaving transplant.

Memories

Michelle R. Harris

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Susan Katcher

April 13, 2021

Michelle was the reason for one of the best vacations I’ve ever had - a trip to Israel to visit her when she lived there. She not only provided a reason to go, but was my co-explorer in navigating every aspect of a wonderful place. You never know what memories and experiences will stick with you, but that trip, and many other moments from Tufts and thereafter remain with me. Thanks to Michelle for the inspiration, and so much more.

Alison Odze

April 13, 2021

Michelle was a wonderful person to spend time with. Every time we would go up to Massachusetts visit, I felt so welcome and loved.

I have this really clear memory of Amy and I inventing a trivia game with bizarre facts on weirdly specific subjects that only elementary school students could care about and making our parents play. I remember Michelle giving us her all and showing up 100%, and I really appreciated that.

I'm grateful that she and I got to dance together at my wedding and that she was able to come and celebrate with me.

Love,
Alison

Arlyne Greenspan

April 12, 2021

Richard, Amy and Jenna-
My heart aches for you! Through the years, meeting and spending time with Michelle was always a special treat. Her quick and warm smile, her individual thoughts and insight into any situation. Beginning when Risa started babysitting for the girls, NSJCC families, Women’s League at TNT, our trip to Israel. I just want to give you all a virtual hug, even Michelle. May she Rest In Peace knowing that she left the best part of herself with you.
Arlyne Greenspan

Alan Rosenthal

April 12, 2021

I remember all my wonderful Harris cousins,...Tammy, Michelle, Robert and Judy., Aunt Jean and Uncle Sid for some of the happiest times of my childhood. Going to 4 Preston Beach Road in Marblehead was an escape from the Bronx with my sister Suzie, father Uncle Julie and Aunt Mildred. I will always be thankful for their generosity for inviting us.
Eating breakfast ...squeezing in to a small kitchen table with everyone was so much fun...family fun. Then climbing up the pear tree, visiting next store neighbor Ronnie Helzner, Kipp ( across the street), going to the beach, or fishing using fresh clams as bait at Rockport were all highlights...
Being with family was the best of all!!
As life marched on we all grew up and went in different directions. Unfortunately we didn't keep in touch as much due to geography, ( living in Alaska for 10 years) , expanding family's etc.

It is very difficult to lose someone as special as Michelle. She contributed so much to the world, Amy, Janna, her family and friends. Her courage was exemplary. A beautiful person within and without.

Michelle left this world on Yom HaShoah , a Day of Remembrance....this will also be a day of remembrance for Michelle. It is a Day that millions of people around the world stop to remember one of the darkest days in human history. But it leads into Yom HaZikaron a Day of light to celebrate, a gift that Hashem has given to us. We have had the gift of having Michelle in our lives. Every second was a gift no matter how long it was for.
We should only celebrate simcha's from now so Michelle will see us happy and joyful.

Love from the Rosenthals
Janet Alan Elana Chana and Matan








Linda Gross

April 12, 2021

I first met Michelle when our oldest children, Zachary and Amy, started religious school at TNT about 18 years ago. We got to know each other as we participated in the temple’s family activities and soon found that we enjoyed chatting about our kids, our interests, and life in general; our friendship grew from there.

Michelle was the one who taught me how to play Mahjong at a sisterhood game night. Her knowledge of the game and patience made her an excellent teacher! We played together for many years after that. I always looked forward to Mahjong nights and even joined one of the infamous weekend Mahjong get-a-aways:)

Michelle's smile in the picture below warms my heart (taken at my 50th birthday party, 2013). I will always hold dear my memories of Michelle.
Linda Gross

Joan Bornstein

April 10, 2021

My fondest memories of Michelle involve mahjong. First of all, she started our mahjong group when her Amy and my Emily were in the second grade (18 years ago!!). I never thought I’d have time to play while raising my young children but Michelle made it happen. From there we had many good times together, not only every week but also including our girls mahjong getaway weekends. We played a lot of mahjong during our getaways for sure (sometimes in pajamas🤣) but we also enjoyed visits to the beach, theatre, restaurants, museums and spas depending on what state we were in at the time. If memory serves, our first getaway was in January 2008 at the Norwich Inn and Spa in CT. It seemed as if we planned a girls getaway most every year we could after that mostly in New Hampshire and Florida. Our last trip together was with a wonderful group of people including our husbands to Eastern Europe. I will cherish my memories of Michelle forever.

Marilyn Schlein Kramer

April 10, 2021

Many memories of the Harris sisters at Camp Yavneh. May her memory be a blessing.

Diane Knopf

April 10, 2021

Michelle was the first person to express an interest in our September/2019 Eastern Europe JCCNS trip - and she was willing to assist with getting the word out and helping in any way she could. She was a wonderful fellow traveler and I am so glad to have shared that special time on our trip...that along with some lunches before and after. She was so interested in everything and cared so much about her family and friends...she filled her short time on this earth with so much love and energy...and will be remembered with much love.
Diane Knopf

Michael Thomassen

April 10, 2021


Rich & Michelle’s generosity at times makes it difficult to ever reciprocate, not even a little bit. So I was fortunate on just one occasion (finally!) to do anything for her, playing a bit part in Michelle’s lung transplant recovery. Upon release from UPMC, given her vulnerable condition & that neither Rich or Michelle enjoy long car trips, I offered to serve as their designated driver to escort Michelle safely home. Imagine the discharge scene: from medically assisted wheelchair to an unassisted front seat, next to an Uber-unworthy driver, accompanied by Rich in the back, 3 orange crate bins of unpronounceable meds, medical supplies & binders of prescribed rehab regimen protocols. Somehow my driving didn’t induce Michelle’s relapse & we powered the entire uneventful way, entertained by “The Circle” audiobook, which she found a total hoot! Then as life often does, Michelle’s courage once again blessed us when my own daughter barely survived a severe ARDS attack in Chicago. Throughout my daughter’s 6-month ordeal & recovery, Rich & Michelle gave us their loving support & priceless pulmonary advice. At my darkest moments, they reached deep into their own painful memories & shared their strength with me so I could advocate effectively to save my daughter’s life. Thanks to both of them, I was never alone. So once again, I find that I owe Michelle a debt I can never repay. I pray I can someday follow her example & help someone else when they most need it.

Heidi August

April 10, 2021

I want to say what a beautiful tribute to an amazing and inspiring woman.

When I first started quilting, Michelle wrote about me in the Jewish Journal. She knew before me that I was an artist and sensed that my quilts would be great. Still working on the great, but I have gone on to make numerous quilts and win many awards at quilt shows. Her support and belief was always with me. I am enclosing a Jumbo quilt I made for your family. Who knew that the Tufts mascot was an elephant?


Best wishes,


Heidi August