'Kind, smart and funny,' young woman succumbs to cancer


Jessica Moorhead, of Chestnut Hill, who was described by friends and relatives as “very kind, very smart and very funny,” died June 10 after a long and painful struggle with breast cancer. She was 36.  

“I don't want this to come across as a cliché,” said her fiancé, Sean Reisman, “but she was the funniest person I ever met. She was so fast with her humor, clever and sharp. She was also an awesome daughter and sister.”

As a nature lover, Jessica found joy in spending time outdoors, including walking, hiking and biking in the Hudson River Valley, where she lived for a year on a solo adventure. While living in New York State, she walked dogs and did pet sitting as a side gig. Jessica loved animals and treasured Abraham, her cat of many years.

She also valued old things, like her collection of teapots, for their history and their practicality, and enjoyed working on crafts. She especially treasured family craft nights. She also loved the sea. She often used the sea as an analogy in her writing and always signed her ceramics with a signature image of an anchor.

“In Jess’s own words, to be ‘lost’ suggests I have defined an endpoint, a terminus, a home,” said Lisa McVey, Moorhead’s aunt. “'But in this life, it’s not the destination but the journey. Gratefully, prayerfully, wherever the tide takes me.' She is no longer adrift or unmoored. She has found her island in the sun.”

According to McVey, Moorhead became a strong advocate for cancer survivors while working with two groups, Infinite Strength and Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

“During her treatment journey, Jessica received support and formed strong friendships with the breast cancer community,” McVey said. “Although she was a very private person, Jessica became an advocate and eloquent spokesperson.”

Reisman said that Moorhead learned enough about her disease to teach her doctors a thing or two. 

“The doctor said she taught him some things about support groups he did not know, and now he uses that information with other patients,” said Reisman, who works with his father, Brian Reisman, owner of Hideaway Music in Chestnut Hill. 

Born and raised in Prospect Park, Delaware County, Jessica graduated from Interboro High School in 2004 and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Temple University in 2008. She subsequently earned a certificate in paralegal studies from Villanova University. Upon graduation, she became a grant accountant in the Office of Research Services for the University of Pennsylvania.

Reisman said that Moorhead, who had been sick for a long time, loved living in Chestnut Hill, and particularly liked hiking in the Wissahickon Park – whenever she felt up to it. 

It was the Wissahickon Park that Reisman chose as a spot to propose to Moorhead in 2019 – the same year that she was hired by Penn. 

The job came with good pay and benefits, he said, but eventually her illness meant she could no longer continue. 

“The breast cancer diagnosis came soon after she was hired,” he said in an earlier interview. “She kept working until December 2019, but then had to leave. She went back to work six months later, but then the cancer came back.”

“For the last five years, Jessica has been a member of our family. We'd all get together in my home, mostly on holidays,” said Brian's wife, Susan. “She had such a great personality, and she was a very strong woman.”

Susan Reisman, who said she has particularly fond memories of spending family beach time in Avalon, added that “we always enjoyed being with Jessica. She always managed to stay positive and never gave up, despite what she was going through. We will really miss her.”

Jessica was predeceased by her maternal grandparents, Doug and Susan Bartlett, and paternal grandfather, Harry Moorhead. In addition to her fiancé, Sean Reisman, she is survived by her mother, Sharon Moorhead, father, Robert Moorhead, brother, James Moorhead, paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Sindoni, and many loving relatives and friends. 

Jessica's burial rite and Eucharist were held June 16 at Christ Church Episcopal in Ridley Park. Memorial gifts may be donated to Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness at metavivor.org or to Life Beyond Breast Cancer at lbbc.org.   

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com