Windermere, Fla.—Merrilee Patterson Crain, secretary and board member of Crain Communications Inc., and wife of Crain Communications President Rance Crain, died Friday.
Mrs. Crain, 69, died of complications from cancer. Crain Communications is the publisher of BtoB and Media Business, among more than 25 business, trade and consumer publications and related websites in North America, Europe and Asia.
“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 pixyish sense of humor, her generosity and her invincible, can-do spirit."
Bob Felsenthal, publisher of BtoB, said: “Merrilee was a very special person who gave great support over the years to the efforts of publications Rance was involved in. She helped carry on a tradition of keeping Crain Communications a family publishing business that felt like a family for its employees. BtoB, myself and the extended Crain Communications family will miss her greatly.”
As a Crain director and assistant secretary, and later as corporate secretary, Mrs. Crain helped decide the direction of the company. She also was active in charitable and civic activities. She served on the board of the Orlando, Fla., Museum of Art, started the Gourmet Gala for the March of Dimes in Chicago and was a board member of Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance Company and the city's Goodman Theatre.
In Florida, Mrs. Crain helped design the office building for Turnstile Media Group, which publishes Golfweek and Professional Artist. She also was publisher of Turnstile's community newspapers, the Winter Park/Maitland (Fla.) Observer and Seminole Voice.
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. After attending the University of Illinois, she graduated from the Katherine Gibbs School in Boston and worked in the engineering department at IBM Corp. in Evanston, Ill.
She met her husband in 1965 on a blind date arranged by Rance's brother, Keith, currently chairman of Crain Communications. Rance and Merrilee were married eight months later.
The couple relocated to New York in 1966, where Rance took a senior editing job at Advertising Age, a sibling Crain publication. They then moved to Connecticut for four years before returning to the Chicago area and settling in Lake Forest, where they raised their family.
Mrs. Crain is survived by her husband; her mother, Frances, who turned 100 this year; her brother, Pat Patterson; her daughters, Heather and Cindi; and six grandchildren.
A service is planned for Nov. 12 in Craigville, Mass., where Mrs. Crain's family has owned a cottage since 1919. She will be buried nearby.