Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Harriett Lake dies at age 96


July 13, 2018

Harriett Lake

An icon of the Jewish community has passed away. Harriett Lake, born Harriett Tuck on April 7, 1922, in Lebanon, Pa., died on Tuesday, July 10, 2018.

Harriett was a special lady. She was (Hello) Dolly Levi, Cher, Lady Gaga and Elton John all rolled into one. From the top of her hat-covered head to the tips of her designer-shoe-clad toes, she was always impeccably dressed "to a (second) t"-like her name. In fact, the only thing that tops her fashionable wardrobe was her extremely generous spirit. Both she and her late husband, Hymen Lake, have given financially to many Jewish organizations, including Kinneret, JFS Orlando, and the Holocaust Center, as well as the Orlando ballet, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Life wasn't always so easy for her. Growing up one of seven children in Lebanon, Pa., Harriett was a child of the Great Depression. She often wore hand-me-downs from girl friends who lived across the street. And that's where she fell in love with lavish outfits.

"It was my first contact with quality clothes," Harriett told the Heritage in an interview a few years ago. "The two girls' grandmother ran a Red Light District and she would buy high-style clothes from New York every season-fur coats, grey flannel suits. I mean they were drop-dead-call-out-the-cops gorgeous these clothes," Harriett unabashedly shared with a laugh.

Harriett loved clothes, but she also had a strong core. In 1943 she enlisted in the Marines and was stationed as a payroll clerk in California. After her enlistment, she moved to Florida, where she met Hy on the steps of a synagogue in Miami Beach.

"I moved to Miami in 1948 searching for a husband," she said jokingly to this writer years ago. "I found him. He was so poor I almost didn't marry him."

Hy and Harriett married in 1950 and moved into a single-room efficiency. Their financial picture soon improved, though, as Hy bought and sold land throughout Florida. His first big sale was a tract off Turkey Lake Road in south Orlando that Harriett deemed a "hopeless swamp." Martin Marietta paid $1 million for the property, now part of the Lockheed Martin site.

In 1962, Harriett and Hy moved to Orlando with their children, Michael and Shelley, who survive her.

"You just never know what tomorrow will bring. Life's an adventure," she said at that time.

That was Harriett Lake-always approachable, always charitable, kind, and dressed to the nines. She often came to the Heritage on Fridays dressed fashionably head to toe to pick up her copy of the Heritage. Always stopping to say hello to Jeff Gaeser, publisher, and the staff.

Now the Lake's name will always be remembered in the Harriett & Hymen Lake Cultural Auditorium at The Roth Family JCC in Maitland; in the Harriett Performance Hall at Mad Cow Theatre in downtown Orlando; in the Harriett Lake Costume Shop at the University of Central Florida; and at Harriett's Bar, at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.

Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Beth Shalom Memorial Chapel.


Reader Comments

pauljeser writes:

To call Harriett 'unique' would be a MAJOR understatement. She and Hy made a difference... to Orlando, FL, the USA and the world.. to hundreds of thousands of people. Her memory will, forever, be a blessing!


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