DETROIT (Nov. 5, 12:05 p.m. ET) — 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.
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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 Company and the Goodman Theatre. She also ran the benefit and auction for the Lake Forest Symphony, and 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. Her father's parents bought the cottage 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.
Merrilee Crain was born 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 were married eight months later. The couples raised their two daughters, Heather and Cindi, in Lake Forest, Ill., and now have six grandchildren. They split their time between Windermere, Fla., and Centerville, Mass.
“Merrilee was an extraordinary woman. 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,” her husband said.
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, Mass., where her family has owned a cottage since 1919.