Established in 1875
Margot Poritsky Jerrard died peacefully at her home in Urbana on August 8, 2018.
Margot was born Marguerite Leon Poritsky on April 14, 1926 in Ithaca, New York to Hillel and Elizabeth Poritsky, both immigrants from pre-revolutionary Russia. While she was a toddler the family moved to Cambridge Massachusetts. During the Great Depression Hillel and Elizabeth settled their family in Schenectady, New York when Hillel accepted a job at General Electric Corporation. Margot grew up there with two younger brothers, Rafael and Bertram Poritsky.
In Schenectady she enjoyed the beautiful forests and streams, winter ice skating and taking walks with her father to the Erie Canal, to watch boats going through the locks. Not known in her later years as a show-off, she was proud as a girl of her ability to ride a bike home from junior high - featuring over ten corners - without touching the handlebars.
Margot’s mother had a sizable family in the lower east side of New York City. Margot would often take the train to New York where her young and glamourous aunts would take her out to the ballet and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She never lost her love for New York City or her appreciation of cultural institutions.
She attended Cornell University during the last years of WWII. Margot loved her studies and the independence she found through college life, and made lifelong friends there. She graduated in 1947 with a Bachelor's Degree in English.
After college Margot returned to her parents’ home in Schenectady. She went to work at General Electric in communications for the massive work force of almost 40,000, editing the weekly newspaper for office employees.
She met Richard Jerrard, a recent graduate working in her father’s lab at General Electric, when Hillel invited his young employee home for dinner. Jerrard was the only junior engineer ever to be honored with such an invitation. Richard and Margot were married in 1951 and remained together for 63 years until Richard’s death in 2014.
Margot and Richard remained in Schenectady until 1954 when they made the decision to seek out a life beyond corporate America. They lived in Michigan and New Jersey where Margot worked as an editor, supporting Richard as he completed his PhD. They moved to Champaign-Urbana in 1958 when Richard accepted a job as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois. Although Margot traveled extensively, this was her home for rest of her life.
Margot became of part of the University of Illinois community during a time of great expansion, arriving in town with many other young recruits. Parties, book clubs and picnics cemented friendships with a large group of young couples. She remained close to many throughout her life, hosting her good friends the Temperley Carol Singers for almost 50 holiday seasons, and celebrating both large and small occasions with friends as families’ lives changed with the arrival of children. First Laura, then the twins, Leigh and Bob, were born in the early 1960s.
Margot was a free-lance writer for over 40 years. In 1955 her novel “Poor Heretics in Love" (written under the pen name “Lane Beecroft") was awarded the Avery Hopwood major award for fiction from the University of Michigan. Her published fiction included “A Very Small Shipwreck", cited in the 1972 Yearbook of the American Short Story. She had a television play produced, and she published numerous non-fiction articles over many years on topics including science, career and school advice, colonial history, feminist scholarship, travel, and squirrels and raccoons. Following the death of her father, she published several pieces addressing overtreatment of elderly and terminally ill patients. In the 90s she collaborated with her husband to write “The Grad School Handbook", for many years a standard reference for students considering applying to graduate school.
She returned to school, attending the U of I, and received a Master of Arts degree in History in 1985.
She was a lifelong political liberal, supporter of women’s rights and the Democratic party. She was a dedicated supporter and fierce advocate of the Urbana Free Library. She became a board member to support its expansion, a project that came to fruition in 2005.
Margot had a quietly adventurous spirit. Beginning in the 1950’s she and Richard traveled to over 25 countries. They spent four sabbaticals living in England and traveling in Europe. She accompanied Richard to Deep Springs College in the eastern desert of California during three terms.
She is survived by her brother, Bertram Poritsky of St Paul, Minnesota, daughter Laura Jerrard, married to Andrew Blackwood, of Oakland, California, and sons Leigh Jerrard of Los Angeles and Robert Jerrard of Toronto, Ontario, married to Nara Jung, and two grandchildren, Niko and Kailee.
A memorial to honor her life will be held the afternoon of October 6 at Clark Lindsey Village, with a reception to follow. Contributions in her honor can be sent to your favorite liberal politician or the Urbana Free Library. Condolences may be offered at renner-wikoffchapel.com.