Legendary Public Official Marilyn Portnoy Dies at Age 77

January 4, 2013
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Marilyn Portnoy, a lifelong resident of Chelsea, passed away on December 25. She was 77 years old.

Mrs. Portnoy’s son Eric delivered a beautiful, heartfelt eulogy at the funeral service, saying his mother was a generous person who reached out to help many people in her life.

The proud son told the story of how his mother came to own the grocery store at the corner of Cottage and Highland Streets and would often give away items to her customers at no charge, a symbol of her goodwill and community spirit.

Portnoy said his mother was devoted to the Democratic Party and enjoyed serving on Chelsea boards where she made history as the first female member of the City Council.

Mrs. Portnoy was admired for her strong opinions at board meetings, always vigorously defending her beliefs and working hard behind the scenes to improve the quality of Chelsea residents’ lives.

Mrs. Portnoy was referred to often as “The Fighting Lady,” a title of respect and admiration in tribute to her advancing with all her heart and energy what was in the best interests of the community and for loving her city for a lifetime.

Many residents conclude that Mrs. Portnoy was a legendary public figure who set a standard of excellence that all Chelsea women have aspired to in the years following her service in city government.

Among those attending the service at Torf Funeral Chapel were City Manager Jay Ash, who knew Mrs. Portnoy when he was a young boy growing up on Cottage Street, former School Committee member Morris Seigal, Council President Leo Robinson, and prominent attorney Richard I. Clayman, who all served with Mrs. Portnoy in local government.

City Clerk Deborah Clayman and other city officials also attended the funeral.

Born in Boston, she attended the Chelsea School System and was a graduate of Chelsea High School, Class of 1953. She also graduated from the Chandler School for Women.

Throughout her entire life, Marilyn was involved in both education and politics for the City of Chelsea. She was the past president of the Parent Teacher Organization of the Shurtleff School, past president of the Parent Teacher Organization of Chelsea High School and a longtime member of the Chelsea School Committee. Marilyn was an Alderman in the City of Chelsea for Ward 1, an Alderman at Large, and a Chelsea City Councilor for District 5. It is also very important to note that she was the first woman member of the Chelsea City Council and the first female Alderman for the City of Chelsea.

She was also the past president of the Chelsea City Council, past president of the Shurtleff Street Shul Sisterhood and a member of the Temple Emmanuel Sisterhood. Even during her later years, Marilyn’s involvement in politics continued with her role on the Tenant’s Council for the Admirals Tower building.

She was the beloved wife of the late Edward Portnoy;  the devoted mother of Randi Zeff and her late husband, Robert, Robyn Iorio and her husband, Philip, Cara Portnoy and Eric Portnoy and his wife, Alaine. She was the dear sister of George Pickard; the loving grandmother of Jennifer, Jamie, Cole, Stone and Ava and is also survived by four great grandchildren.

Services were held at the Torf Funeral Chapel, Chelsea. Donations in her memory may be made to the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home Foundation, 17 Lafayette Ave. Chelsea, MA 02150. For online guestbook, please visit the funeral home website: www.torffuneralservice.com.

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