As president of the PTA at her youngest son’s elementary school, Gail Serota knew she had to do something to promote the yearly wrapping paper fundraiser.
So, true to form, Serota went for originality: She crafted an entire outfit out of the printed paper and strutted around the school in order to boost sales.
“It the biggest sale they had,” said her husband, Joseph Serota. “When she committed to something she didn’t back down.”
Over the years, Gail Serota amassed quite the resume — mother to three boys, partner at the law firm Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, onetime councilwoman for the Village of Pinecrest and president of the Sisterhood at the Bet Shira Synagogue.
Serota, whose husband was a founder of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, died Sunday in a snorkeling accident in Biscayne Bay. She was 65.
Joseph Serota said he and his wife loved to be on their boat and often spent days in the Ragged Keys. His wife, who loved the water, went snorkeling Sunday afternoon and got caught in a current, Serota said.
“It was our place to be together,” he said, fighting back tears.
The Serotas had spent Thanksgiving with their three adult sons and their families and went boating as a family on Friday.
“It was the perfect weekend,” said the Serotas’ oldest son, Michael. “We were all together.”
Gail Serota was born April 30, 1953, in Passaic, New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 1975. It was at Princeton that Joseph Serota met her.
He was taking Hebrew 101 because he “needed an easy course.”
“She let me look at her notes,” he said. “That was it.”
Joseph Serota said Gail Serota turned down going to law school at Stanford to attend the University of Miami, where he was studying. The two married in 1980.
Together they had three boys, but Gail Serota always managed “to find the balance between her job as a mother and her job as an attorney,” said Stephen Helfman, a founding member of the firm.
“She was really the model of a professional woman,” he said. “She was really our go-to person. She had the unique ability to do incredible work for our firm.”
Her son Michael said his mother was organized, committed and “was really one of a kind.” When she saw something wrong she wasn’t afraid to speak out. When someone was in need, she was the first to offer help. When it came to her children, she’d do anything, Michael said.
Besides her work as an attorney and as a mother, she also found time to join the Pinecrest Planning Board, on which she served from 2002-2004, and then became a Pinecrest council member from 2004-2008.
Joseph M. Corradino, the current mayor of Pinecrest, described Serota in a social media post as being “intelligent, full of energy and effort and caring.”
“She loved Pinecrest. She was long active in our community through the PTAs, Bet Shira, as a member of our Planning Board, as a Council member, and candidate for mayor,” he said, adding that the flags at the Pinecrest Municipal Center were lowered to half-staff until sunset Tuesday in her honor. “She was a brilliant lawyer who always conducted herself with class and civility. She will be deeply missed by all of us.”
She 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.
Service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Bet Shira Congregation, 7500 SW 120th St. in Pinecrest. Burial will follow at Mt. Nebo Kendall, 5900 SW 77th Ave.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to either the Jackson Health Foundation, https://jacksonhealthfoundation.org/donate or the Children’s Home Society of South Florida, https://www.chsfl.org/donate in Gail Serota’s honor.