Great Barrington, MA 01230-1821
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Helen Sierles Gross

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Helen Sierles Gross Obituary
Helen Gross Sierles

LENOX Helen Gross Sierles died in Lenox on Aug. 1, 2014, at age 102. Born in New York City, she was the oldest of the seven children of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Selig and Rebecca Fishman. When she was four, the family settled in New Haven, Conn., where she grew up, graduated from Hillhouse High School and attended what is now New Haven University, earning her teaching degree in 1931. She was a talented, if untrained, pianist with perfect pitch, and until her death was probably the last surviving person to have played piano accompaniments during silent movies. Almost everyone who encountered her described her as an extraordinary person, a giving, loving, selfless and good woman, who always looked for ways to help family, friends, acquaintances and strangers in need. Her generosity of spirit and genuine concern for other people seemed limitless, putting their needs and happiness above concerns for herself. She cared little for wealth or material possessions and valued kindness. She admired intelligence and creativity and loved the arts, especially painting and classical music, and instilled in her children those loves and the respect for and sense of connection to people from all cultures and backgrounds. In her late teens, she met George Gross, of Jersey City, N. J., and the couple fell deeply in love, marrying when she was 20. Unable to have biological children, they adopted Eleanor, Peter and Sandra, embracing them with limitless love. The family lived in Maplewood and then South Orange, N.J. Although her life was rich and full and she always was able to recover her warm, happy and positive personality, she experienced a number of devastating losses. Her youngest sister, Millie, died in 1925 at age 6 from blood poisoning; her adopted daughter, Eleanor, died in 1945 at age 5 from leukemia; her only brother, Stanley, was killed in 1945 at age 19 in World War II, and her beloved husband, George, died in 1971 at age 59 of cancer. After his death, she married Samuel Sierles, who died in 1997. Later she experienced the death of her parents and two of her remaining sisters, Evelyn and Edna, and her grandson, Matthew, was seriously brain-injured at age 27 in 1997 in a shooting. Despite how deeply she felt those losses, Helen became known for her sweet, warm smile, and for telling everyone she knew how lucky she felt because of her family, in which she took such pride for their values and accomplishments. She is survived by her children, Sandra Newman of Stockbridge, and Peter Gross (Elizabeth) of South Salem, N.Y.; by five grandchildren, Dan Gross (Maria Garcia) of New York City, Matthew Gross of Hawthorne, N.J., Gabriel Gross (Hala Mamish) of Astoria, N.Y, Jesse Newman of Maui, Hawaii, and Rebecca Newman of New York City; and by four great-grandchildren, Rosie and Tino Garcia-Gross of New York City, Zoe Mamish-Gross of Astoria, N.Y., and Tanner Williams of Los Angeles, Calif.; two sisters, Lillian Chasnoff of Hamden, Conn., and Charlotte Schwartz (Mischa) of Great Neck, N.Y.; a sister-in-law, Florence Gross of West Caldwell, N.J., and numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. FUNERAL NOTICE: An informal gathering to honor Helen's life will be held on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6, from 6 until 9 p.m. at the home of Sandy Newman in Stockbridge and the family will sit shiva on Thursday, Aug. 7, and Friday, Aug. 8, (when there will be a short remembrance ceremony), from 7 p.m. at the home of Peter and Elizabeth Gross in South Salem, N.Y. All family and friends are invited. Interment of Helen's ashes will be in a small service at Beth Israel Memorial Gardens in Woodbridge, N.J., at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, charitable donations be made to Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, or Community Access to the Arts through FINNERTY & STEVENS FUNERAL HOME, 426 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230. Remembrances may be sent to her family through www.finnertyandstevens.com
Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Aug. 3, 2014
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