Printing plant owner known for her hugs
Jean McIlnay never met a person she wouldn't hug.
"She loved people," her husband James A. McIlnay said. "She loved everybody, and you can ask any person in Ligonier about her hugs. She hugged everybody. The people in the post office got their hugs, the people at Bethlen Home, the people on the street she knew. "
Jean A. McIlnay, who with her husband owned and operated the Bethlen Printing Co. in Ligonier, died suddenly, Monday, Oct. 31, 2005, in Excela Health Latrobe Area Hospital. She was 61.
Mrs. McIlnay was born Aug. 29, 1944, in Greensburg, a daughter of Ruth L. Beer Baker, of Stahlstown, and the late Quentin A. Baker.
She grew up in Stahlstown and was the oldest of 10 children. "We actually looked at Jean Ann as the captain of our family," her brother, Roy Baker, said.
Mrs. McIlnay attended secretarial school after her 1962 graduation from Ligonier Valley High School. She lived and worked in Greensburg for a time as a secretary for an attorney.
In 1965, she met James McIlnay at a carnival at the Luxor Fire Hall in Hempfield Township. "We met in June and got married in October," James McIlnay said.
"We had a couple carnivals, and she came there," he continued. "I was on the chuck-a-luck wheel, and she spent a lot of time, so I took her out."
The couple just recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.
In 1972, they moved their young family to Stahlstown, where they built a house on her family's homestead.
A little over a decade later, she and her husband and another partner bought Bethlen Printing. The couple became the sole owners of the business about five years ago.
"We worked together all those years and spent 24 hours a day together," James McIlnay said. "When you spend 24 hours a day with someone, it can get hectic at times, but it worked out. If I had to do it all over again I would."
Mrs. McIlnay was very active in the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival, an event held annually for nearly 100 years. James McIlnay said his wife was in charge of advertising for the festival for many years. Her family also ran a funnel cake booth at the event, which celebrates the art of making linen from the flax plant.
Mrs. McIlnay served on the board of directors of the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce. She volunteered for many years with the Bethlen Home, Ligonier YMCA and the Girl Scouts.
"Between the shop and all the things that she did volunteer-wise, it kept her real busy," James McIlnay said.
But her brother said Mrs. McIlnay always had time for holidays.
"She was very festive," he said. "If you could see her house right now, it is festive for the fall, Halloween tradition. You go downstairs and there's a room in their basement area that has the boxes packed for each holiday."
Mrs. McIlnay's daughter, Jodi Goodlin, said her mother planned to sing in her church's Christmas cantata again this year.
But this time, she convinced Goodlin to join her. They went to their first practice together at the Armbrust Wesleyan Church just a few weeks ago.
"I'm going to sing in this Christmas cantata because I know she's up there and she wants me to do it," Goodlin said.
In addition to her mother, she is also survived by her husband, James A. McIlnay; a daughter, Mrs. Thomas (Jodi) Goodlin, of Mt. Pleasant; two sons, James W. (and his wife Cindy) McIlnay, of Baltimore, and Jason Q. McIlnay, of Stahlstown; three granddaughters, Sadie, Laryssa and Katrina; four sisters, Mrs. Ray (Margaret Lou) Sanner, of Stahlstown, Mrs. Jay (Marti) Etter, of Hilton Head, S.C., Mary Ellen Musgrove, of Ruffsdale, and Mrs. William (Karen) Baker Heffner, of Acme; and five brothers, the Rev. Quentin A. "Buzz" (and his wife, Marge) Baker, of Savannah, Ga., Roy T. (and his wife, Betty) Baker, of Mountain Top, Luzerne County, Robert C. Baker, of Stahlstown, Philip J. (and his wife, Tracy) Baker, of Mt. Pleasant, and William E. (and his wife, Valerie) Baker, of Champion.
Friends were received Wednesday at the J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel, Inc., 144 E. Main St., Ligonier, where her life will be celebrated at 11 a.m. today with her pastor, Byron T. Eisaman, officiating. Interment will follow at Stahlstown Cemetery.
A scholarship fund in Mrs. McIlnay's name will be set up to help local teachers in the Ligonier Valley School District pursue further education. Memorial contributions may be made to the Jean A. McIlnay Memorial Fund, c/o 144 E. Main St., Ligonier, PA 15658.