Graham Orley
Graham Orley

Graham Orley was successful and ethical in business.

“God has been good to me,” Graham Orley sometimes said to his rabbi, with a characteristic twinkle in his eye. And it indeed was so during his long and fortunate life. But Mr. Orley wasn’t one to bypass opportunities or shirk responsibilities.

People loved and respected him for many reasons, including his being a devoted husband and father and, ultimately, the wise family patriarch. He was successful and ethical in business. He also served as a caring and visionary Jewish communal leader who made a difference.

Graham A. Orley, 96, of Bloomfield Hills died on July 21, 2021. His July 25 funeral service took place in the Davidson/Hermelin Chapel at Clover Hill Park Cemetery in Birmingham. Officiating were Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, senior director of Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network, and Congregation Shaarey Zedek Rabbi Aaron Starr and Assistant Cantor Leonard Gutman. The Orley family affiliated with the synagogue in 1933, when Graham’s father initially exchanged his talent of singing opera for paying membership dues.

Mr. Orley was a first-generation American. His parents, Celia (Goldberg) Orley from Lithuania and George Orley of Odessa, Ukraine (formerly Russia), came to the United States between 1910-12. They moved shortly afterward to Detroit, where their middle child, Graham, was born on Oct. 9, 1924. Drafted for World War II after completing Central High School, he missed his chance to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He became a Navy Seaman First Class aboard the gunboat USS Paducah.

The story of Mr. Orley must include his older brother, the late Joseph Orley. “They were 50-50 partners in business from the time they were boys, shoveling coal and selling Hibachi grills door to door,” said Graham’s son, Randy Orley. The brothers, who ate lunch together every day, founded many real estate and manufacturing companies. Randy said their three most successful ventures were “Elro Corporation, Rudgate Mobile Home Communities and RheTech.” 

“Graham took pride in being an Orley,” Rabbi Starr said, and giving back to the community was a given. The Orley brothers became leaders with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Federation’s Annual Campaign. Graham Orley was a member of Federation’s Board of Governors, president of what is now known as the United Jewish Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit and chaired Federation’s real estate committee. 

In his eulogy, former Federation CEO Robert Aronson said his close friend Mr. Orley convinced his board colleagues to purchase the former Congregation B’nai Moshe building in Oak Park and allow Yeshiva Beth Yehudah to open a girls’ school. It was the impetus for developing an entire local campus for Orthodox Jewish education. Mr. Orley also guided Federation’s move from Downtown Detroit to its current building in Bloomfield Township.

New JFS Building

Perhaps the Orleys’ greatest gift to their community happened in 2001. The brothers and their spouses donated monies to build what became the Graham A. and Sally A. Orley and Joseph H. and Suzanne E. Orley Jewish Family Service Building in West Bloomfield. 

Mr. Orley also was active with Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Beaumont and Henry Ford healthcare systems. Internationally, he supported ORT, Israel Bonds, Bar-Ilan University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He played tennis and attended team sporting events as pastimes.

Sally Ann Hechtman met Graham, a “sophisticated older man,” at a friend’s going-away party. He showed up with a pinky ring to “claim” her before she dated another man, soon winning her heart. They were married on April 17, 1950.

The Orleys blossomed into a large family. Recalling his “tough, but sweet grandfather,” Ethan Orley said, “We rarely saw him out of a suit and tie.” Gramps taught his children and grandchildren to have a strong work ethic and the other hallmarks of being an upright person. Whatever family members wanted to do in life was OK, he’d say, as long as they strived to be the best.

At the end, it was all about Graham and Sally’s love story. “He was blowing kisses at her, holding her hand, until he took his last breath,” said Rabbi Krakoff.

Mr. Orley is survived by Sally Orley, his beloved wife of 71 years. He was the cherished father and father-in-law of Geoffrey (Paola) Orley, Randy (Diane) Orley and Pamela (Dr. Walter) Feuereisen; loving “Gramps” of Adam (Alison) Orley, Ethan (Laurel) Orley, Jordan (Charlene) Orley, Amanda Orley (fiancé Jeremy Goldman), Samuel Orley, Kerri Feuereisen and James Feuereisen; proud great-grandfather of Ben Orley, Maya Orley, Naomi Orley, Levi Orley, Ruby Orley and Julian Orley. He is also survived by his sister, Rhea Brody; many nieces and nephews, and his caregivers, Joyce, Cheryl and Ricci.

Mr. Orley was the son of the late Celia and the late George Orley; son-in-law of the late Lillian and the late Samuel Hechtman, grandfather of the late George Orley, and brother and brother-in-law of the late Joseph and the late Suzanne Orley and the late Robert Brody.

Interment was at Clover Hill Park Cemetery. Contrib-utions may be made to Jewish Federation, George A. Orley Memorial Fund, 6735 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301, jewishdetroit.org/donate-online, (248) 642-4260; Jewish Family Service, 6555 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48322, jfs.org, (248) 592-2300; or University of Michigan Depression Center, Orley Family Fund-700978, Michigan Medicine Development, Attn: Sally Dillon, 1000 Oakbrook Dr., Ste. 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, victors.us/grahamorley, (734) 763-4858. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel. 

Previous articleTorah Portion: A Plan to Boost Our Spirituality
Next articleRuth Pearl, Mother of Murdered Journalist Daniel Pearl, Dies at 85