Fisherman and former Provincetown Selectman Michael Perel died on Dec. 7, 2023 at his home in Katy, Texas surrounded by his wife, Helaine, his children, and their spouses. The cause was pancreatic cancer, which followed a struggle against multiple myeloma that included stem-cell replacement therapy. Michael was 78.
The son of David and Sylvia Perel, Michael was born on Sept. 19, 1945 at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga. He grew up in Teaneck, N.J., where, according to his childhood friend Rick Bella, he played lots of pickup softball with the neighborhood kids. He also learned to love recreational saltwater fishing.
He and Helaine Goldman married and started their family in New Jersey. Michael worked as an accountant for 15 years in New York City. Through his clients at the Fulton Fish Market he was offered a business opportunity in Provincetown, where the Perels moved in 1984 and where he owned and operated Oceanic Seafood, partnering with Raymond Duarte.
During his Provincetown years, Michael pursued his love of fishing as part of his business and personal life while volunteering to serve the town in many ways. He could be found at the end of MacMillan Pier at Oceanic Seafood’s building almost every day. He would often be seen walking the shoreline, fishing for striped bass in solitude or with small groups of friends.
Michael’s volunteer work included tutoring at Provincetown High School and serving as a coach for the high school hockey team and for Provincetown youth hockey, taking the latter team to the state finals.
He also served on the Provincetown Finance Committee from 1988 to 1991 and as a selectman from 1992 to 1995. He represented Provincetown on the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission, where he worked to ensure beach access rights and to preserve private stewardship of the dune shacks.
“I would have never been able to fight for the real dune shack dwellers if it had not been for Mike,” wrote Gail Cohen in an online tribute. “He understood the Feds better than anyone.”
Michael was also instrumental in the expansion of the Provincetown Municipal Airport and the protection of marshlands; he helped to keep the Provincetown landfill open to townspeople and to ensure that the National Seashore upheld the commitments it made in the original deed to the Province Lands. Many people “have no idea how important Michael was to Provincetown,” Cohen wrote.
With Helaine and a small group of fellow Jewish residents, Michael founded Am Ha Yam, Cape Cod Havurah, a diverse Jewish community, in 1987. Based in Brewster, Am Ha Yam “members represent a broad range of backgrounds, traditions, and beliefs, welcoming all Jews, interfaith, multicultural, LGBTQ individuals and families, and anyone seeking a rich and varied Jewish experience,” states the group’s website.
After their children were grown, Michael and Helaine relocated to Kauai, Hawaii, where they lived for 25 years. Michael worked again in finance, first for a Kauai restaurant and then for the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., where he eventually became regional CFO, working to expand and improve care. He never missed a day of work.
Michael served as a member of the Kauai Charter Review Commission and became a small-arms instructor, and he and Helaine took up salsa dancing, traveling around the island to offer instruction. On weekends, Michael could be found in the Kauai coffee fields, riding his mountain bike over rough terrain.
In 2019, Michael and Helaine retired to Katy, Texas to spend time with their son Matthew and his family. Michael and Helaine became regulars at the local gun range.
Although declining health made it difficult for him to get out much, he and Helaine continued to enjoy salsa, and Michael dove deeply into Judaism by joining Chabad of Cypress, embracing his religion in a way he had not previously experienced.
Michael was a devoted fan of his granddaughter in her figure skating competitions and exhibitions. He continued to take visitors with him to the gun range, and he questioned and challenged his friend, the rabbi.
He is survived by his wife, Helaine Perel of Katy, Texas; his daughter, Sandi, and husband Kevin O’Shaughnessy of Kappa, Hawaii; his son Kenneth and wife Nathlei Perel of Katy; his son Matthew and wife Rebecca Perel of Richmond, Texas; his son Beau and wife Kathleen Gribbin of Provincetown; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also leaves his brother Richard and wife Susan Perel of North Truro and his brother Jay Perel of Arizona.
Michael’s burial took place on Dec. 8, 2023 at Emanu El Memorial Park in Houston. In lieu of flowers, donations in Michael’s name can be made to Chabad of Cypress at chabadcypress.com.