Jennifer Lee MacIsaac, 54, passed away at Indiana Regional Hospital in Indiana, Pa., on Jan. 28, 2014.
She was born in Syracuse, N.Y., on March 15, 1959, the daughter of Donald M. MacIsaac and Bettye Huntley MacIsaac. The family moved to the MacIsaac ancestral farmstead near Marchand, Pa., in the fall of 1960, when Mr. MacIsaac began teaching in the Audio Visual Department at Indiana State College; he remained at IUP, as a professor in the Communications Media Department, until his retirement in 1982.
Jennifer attended the elementary grades in Indiana at IUP’s Keith School and junior high and part of senior high school in the Punxsutawney School System. She completed her secondary education at Sandy Springs Friend’s School, a Quaker boarding school in Maryland, graduating in 1976.
She was a self-motivated student and earned good grades at Keith School, Punxsutawney Junior High and Sandy Springs Friend’s School. She played flute in the Punxsutawney High School band and orchestra and was an enthusiastic marching band majorette.
Tragedy struck the family when Jennifer’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1969 and succumbed in 1974, after a valiant five-year battle and multiple remissions. As a young girl and teenager, Jennifer did her best to maintain the family traditions, holiday celebrations and relationships. It was a time understandably fraught with unhappiness and despair for her, but she kept going on, steadfastly. Eventually, she attended IUP, earning her baccalaureate degree in journalism and communications media.
In 1981, she married Mark Wilkinson, a steel construction foreman for Indiana Steel and Fabricating Co. in Indiana, Pa. Sometimes, she worked on construction jobs with Mark’s crew, and at others for various businesses, restaurants and lounges in Indiana; she also helped her father in his sideline business ventures.
Jennifer was delighted with the birth of her son, Donald Justin Wilkinson, in April, 1983, and thereafter devoted herself to raising him. In subsequent years, she frequently referred to Justin as “my greatest achievement.” Justin is now an environmental engineer and a graduate of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and is employed as a consultant for oil and gas companies throughout the U.S.
Professionally, Jennifer was interested in media, particularly print, radio and television. She began her radio career working for WCCS Stereo 1160-AM in Homer City, selling radio time, production, and “on air” work. Subsequently, she worked as an intern, part-time, at WJAC Channel 6 TV in Johnstown, writing news copy for telecasts.
She later moved to Harrisburg to take a full time news production position with WHTM-TV, one of Harrisburg’s major television news departments. She worked there until she suffered the spontaneous collapse of both lungs.
Recovery was slow and painful, but eventually, in 1992, Jennifer moved to Penn State University, where she served as the media and public relations specialist for the dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences for 12 years. Among other things, she was responsible for writing speeches for the dean and other Agricultural Sciences administrators; for coordinating access of national, regional and local news people to the chairman and other experts in the college; and for public relations and problem solving at Penn State’s major events, Ag Progress Days, on Penn State’s demonstration farm, and Penn State’s presence at the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg. She also wrote publicity releases, magazine articles, and commentary for a variety of Penn State’s Agricultural College video productions, and she scripted and directed others, working directly with subject matter specialists on the Agriculture College faculty.
She resigned from Penn State University in 2005 when health problems recurred, and eventually, she returned to radio work, doing a popular early-morning talk and music show in State College.
In the years that followed, she worked as a radio host under various pseudonyms on many of the stations in the State College market, including WQWK-FM (Qwk Rock), WBUS-FM (The Bus), WBLF-AM and WMAJ-FM (Lite 99). When she returned to her childhood home, near Marchand, Pa., Jennifer worked for a Punxsutawney radio station, WPXZ-FM, when her health permitted, hosting a music and talk show, doing production work and broadcasting remote “live” coverage of celebratory civic and business events occurring in Punxsutawney.
In addition to her dear friends, Jennifer is survived by her son, Justin Wilkinson; her father and stepmother, Don and Joyce MacIsaac; her brother, Bruce MacIsaac, and his daughter, Olivia, and wife, Beth; an uncle, Malcolm McIsaac and his son, Charles; her significant other, Michael Booth; and cousins in New York state, North Carolina, and Montana.
Jennifer was preceded in death by her mother, Bettye H. MacIsaac; her beloved older half-brothers, Jeffrey H. and Timothy H. King; her paternal grandparents, Lydia and Archibald McIsaac; and her maternal grandfather, Raymond D. Huntley; and aunts, Ruth Greenleaf, and Evelyn Huntley, and uncles, Harold and Cecil Huntley.
A memorial celebration of Jennifer’s life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 285 Twolick Drive, Indiana, Pa. All friends are warmly encouraged to participate.