Merrilee Patterson Crain, secretary and board member of Crain Communications Inc. and wife of Crain’s TVWeek founder Rance Crain, died Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. She would have turned 70 on Nov. 27.
Mrs. Crain was active in charitable, business and family activities. In the Chicago area, where the Crains lived for many years, she started the Gourmet Gala for the March of Dimes in Chicago and was a board member of the 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 skills and interests, she helped design the Crains’ Bermuda-style house in Windermere, Fla., and the office building for Turnstile Media Group, her husband’s company in Orlando, Fla., 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.
Merrilee Crain was born Nov. 27, 1942, in Providence, R.I. She grew up in Winnetka, near Chicago, 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 Corp. in Evanston.
Mrs. Crain met her husband, 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 the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and now have six grandchildren. Most recently Rance and Merrilee split their time between Windermere, Fla., and Centerville, Mass.
“Merrilee was an extraordinary woman," her husband Rance 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.”
Mrs. Crain also forged close ties with those she worked with and was known as a valued counselor to Crain’s senior management as the company grew.
“Merrilee was just an amazing woman," said Gloria Scoby, a Crain senior vice president 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.
“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.”
“When Rance founded Electronic Media 30 years ago – which later was renamed TVWeek – Merrilee contributed a number of exceptional ideas, as she continued to do in our years as TVWeek,” said Chuck Ross, TVWeek’s managing director.
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.