Merrilee Patterson Crain, secretary and board member of Crain Communications and wife of Crain President Rance Crain, died Nov. 2. She would have turned 70 on Nov. 27.
Mrs. Crain was active in charitable, business and family activities. She started the Gourmet Gala for the March of Dimes in Chicago and was a board member of the Hubbard Street Dance Co. and the Goodman Theatre. She also ran the benefit and auction for the Lake Forest (Ill.) Symphony. When the Crains moved to Florida, she served on the board of the Orlando Museum of Art.
One of her proudest accomplishments was to author a self-published book on her family history as it flowed through the Patterson cottage in Craigville, Mass. The cottage was bought by her father's parents in 1919 for $4,025.
A woman of many talents and interests, she helped design the Crain's Bermuda-style house in Windermere, Fla., and the office building for the Turnstile Media Group, her husband's company in Orlando, where she served on the board. Mrs. Crain was a talented artist, and among other works painted the cover for her book, The Cottage
. She also wrote poetry.
Mrs. Crain was born Nov. 27, 1942, in Providence, R.I. She grew up in Winnetka, Ill., where she graduated from New Trier High School in 1960. After attending the University of Illinois, she graduated from the Katharine Gibbs School in Boston and worked in the engineering department of IBM in Evanston, Ill.
“Merrilee was an extraordinary woman. It's very rare that a person combines creativity and intuition with a practical side, but Merrilee did,” her husband said. “She came up with elegant solutions to problems that eluded the rest of us, and people gravitated to her for advice and counsel. We will miss her love, her pixyish sense of humor, her generosity and her invincible can-do spirit.”
Mrs. Crain met Rance in 1965 on a blind date arranged by Rance's brother, Keith. They were married eight months later. The couple raised their two daughters, Heather and Cindi, in Lake Forest, and now have six grandchildren. They split their time between Windermere and Centerville, Mass.
“More than anything, Merrilee was a very kind, loving and generous person,” said Modern Healthcare publisher Fawn Lopez. “She had a great sense of humor, and no matter how tough things ever got, she always found a way to help you see the lighter side of things. It was a privilege to know her, and she will be greatly missed, but the positive impact she had on our company and the people who were fortunate enough to know her will last forever.”
She is survived by her husband; her mother, Frances (who turned 100 in July); her brother Pat; her daughters Heather and Cindi; and six grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Nov. 12 in Craigville.