Merrilee Patterson Crain, secretary and board member of Crain Communications Inc. and wife of InvestmentNews founder and editor in chief 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 that city's Hubbard Street Dance Company and the Goodman Theatre. She also ran the benefit and auction for the Lake Forest Symphony. When the Crains moved to Florida, Mrs. Crain 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 Crains' 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 an artist and, among other works, painted the cover for her book, The Cottage. She also wrote poetry.
Merrilee Patterson 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 Katherine Gibbs School in Boston and worked in the engineering department of IBM in Evanston, Ill.
Mrs. Crain met her husband, Rance, in 1965 on a blind date arranged by Rance's brother, Keith. They married eight months later. The couple raised their two daughters, Heather and Cindi, in Lake Forest, Ill., and later split their time between Windermere, Fla., and Centerville, Mass.
"Merrilee was an extraordinary woman," her husband said. "It's very rare that a person combines creativity and intuition with a practical side, but Merrilee did. 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 pixie-ish sense of humor, her generosity and her invincible can-do spirit."'
Mrs. Crain also forged close ties with colleagues and was known as a valued counselor to Crain's senior management as business grew.
"Merrilee was just an amazing woman," said Gloria Scoby, a Crain senior vice president and a former publisher of Crain's New York Business who worked with Mrs. Crain for more than three decades. "She was direct to a fault yet extremely supportive, an expert peacekeeper, mirthful, measured and blessed with an uncanny common sense and instinct for how to handle business issues and personal affairs as well. 'Well, have you thought of doing it this way?' she would usually say. And she was always spot on."
Ms. Scoby added: "Personally, she taught me how to let go of things that were troublesome and focus on the business at hand. 'Just forget about it,' she told me more than once. If she was one thing in particular, she was decisive. I, like many people at our company, was lucky to be her friend and her colleague."
InvestmentNews' vice president and publisher Suzanne Siracuse, remembered Mrs. Crain as “smart, warm and caring about everyone who worked at Crain.”
“She really helped establish a wonderful work environment for all us here at Crain Communications,” Ms. Siracuse said. “When we launched InvestmentNews fifteen years ago, Merrilee was very supportive of all of our efforts and continued to be as an active board member.”
InvestmentNews' editorial director Jim Pavia added, “This company, and this publication, has lost a valued member of its family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Crain family during this difficult period.
Mrs. Crain is survived by her husband; her mother Frances, who turned 100 in July; her brother, Pat; her daughters, Heather and Cindi; and six grandchildren.