“First Lady of PBA” Rainy Stitzlein Dies in Akron at Age 84

by Bill Vint December 4, 2012 02:37

SEATTLE (Dec. 2, 2012) – Lorraine (Rainy) Stitzlein, arguably the most influential woman in Professional Bowlers Association history, died on Friday in Akron, Ohio. She was 84.

The only woman inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame was PBA founder Eddie Elias’ executive assistant and business secretary in the organization’s formation years. But she was much more than an office manager.

A bio used in her 1992 induction into the Summit County (Ohio) Sports Hall of Fame explains:

“Her bio lists her as a businesswoman and house wife, but her busy career since she graduated from (University of Akron) in 1948 hasn’t left Rainy Stitzlein much time to stay at home. She is a fashion expert and businesswoman, the first woman named as an honorary member of Beta Gamma Sigma Kappa of Ohio, a national organization for business administration. She is a community activist, involved in many local and national charities. She is a member of the UA Board of Trustees.

“But in the sports world, Stitzlein is best known for her contribution to the Professional Bowlers Association. In fact, she’s referred to as the First Lady of the PBA. She joined Eddie Elias Enterprises in 1958 and helped Elias found the PBA that year as the business secretary, organizing the staff and handling the finances. But she was more than that. If Elias was the father of the PBA, Stitzlein was the “mother, midwife, nurse, aunt, cousin and hostess,” a sports writer once wrote. She continues to serve as executive vice president of Elias Enterprises.

“In 1978, she was named Lifetime Honorary Member of the PBA. In 1980, she was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame for meritorious service. She is the only woman ever named to any men’s professional sports hall of fame.”

Stitzlein served as Summit County Metro Parks Commissioner for several years. She was a trustee and/or board member with the University of Akron, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, and American Cancer Society. Active in the Ohio thoroughbred racing community, she served as a commissioner with the Ohio State Racing Commission for 10 years, and was president of The Rainbow Company, a firm that represented sports celebrities.

The University of Akron’s Stitzlein Alumni Center is named in honor of business leader Harry Stitzlein and his wife, both well-known University of Akron alumni. She is survived by her brother Chuck Gates, sister Beverly (Jim) Ewing, and their extended families. She is preceded in death by her husband and brother Al Gates.

Calling hours are scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 at Billow Funeral Home in Fairlawn, Ohio, with funeral services at Montrose Zion United Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 8, in Akron.

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