Gertrude Crain. You may not have heard of her, although you probably recognize her last name. She was chairman emeritus of the company I work for, Crain Communications Inc., which publishes TIRE BUSINESS and 26 other business, trade and consumer publications, including Rubber & Plastics News, Automotive News and Advertising Age.
On July 20 Mrs. Crain, at age 85, died while on Cape Cod, Mass.
I didn't know Mrs. Crain well. I probably talked with her only about 10 times during my dozen years at the publishing company that bears her name. But I liked her a lot.
I liked her because, when I was an eager young editor attending my first corporate editors' meeting, she spent time talking with me about my family and how I liked my job.
We had a fairly long conversation, and she genuinely seemed interested and pleased I was part of the company. For a new kid on the block, who was nervous being around Crain's many great editors for the first time, I was touched by her thoughtfulness. She put me completely at ease.
I liked her for other reasons, too.
She appreciated loyalty and viewed her employees, more than 900 of them, as family. In fact, by viewing those who worked for her as a second family, she set the tone for the company.
She thought work should be fun, at least most of the time, and that if you weren't having fun, maybe you ought to be doing something else. She told me this during one of our conversations, and I couldn't agree more.
Mrs. Crain spent 40 years at Crain Communications serving as secretary and assistant treasurer before succeeding her late husband, G.D. Crain Jr., as chairman in 1974, following his death the year before. She retired just three months ago, in May, and became chairman emeritus.
Mrs. Crain won many honors during her career, including the prestigous Henry Johnson Fisher Award in 1993 from the Magazine Publishers of America, the magazine industry's highest award.
She was a founding member of the ``Committee of 200,'' an organization consisting of the top 200 women business owners and CEOs in the country.
She received an honorary Doctorate of Journalism from DePauw University and was inducted into Working Women magazine's Hall of Fame. While these are certainly noteworthy achievements, her proudest role was as mother of Keith and Rance, her two sons who run the company. Even in meetings they called her ``Mom.''
The growth of Crain Communications into a major media company attests to her success as a businesswoman.
But what I'll remember most is that Mrs. Crain was a thoughtful lady with class. She was genuine, she was friendly, she was gracious and she was a delight to be around. I'll miss her, as will all those who knew her and called her the ``soul of the company.''
Mr. Zielasko is editor and associate publisher of TIRE BUSINESS.