IT WAS about 25 years ago that Jeff Horn, then a newsroom clerk for the

Daily News,

met the woman who would change his life.

She was emerging from an elevator in the Daily News/Inquirer building carrying a tray, as he recalls. He nearly bumped into her and gave her what he describes as a "nasty look."

Jeff, who admits he was a bit crusty and defensive in those days, had a twinge of conscience. The young woman didn't deserve to be treated that way. And besides, she was very attractive.

He found her office and stood outside until she saw him. When she came up to him, he apologized; they talked and flirted. And, as he says now, "the rest is history."

Jeff Horn and Mary Ellen Guld, her name at the time, got together, love bloomed, and they became a couple in a relationship that seemed destined to endure forever.

Mary Ellen, who became Mary Ellen Horn and was employed by what was then Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. and later a Philadelphia engineering firm, died Friday after a long illness. She was 51 and lived in Stratford, N.J.

Her impact on Jeff Horn, as well as everybody else with whom she came into contact in her working and personal lives, was positive and inspiring.

For Jeff, she showed him that it was possible to greet the world with a more open attitude.

"I changed because of her," he said. "She showed me that I didn't have to have an edge all the time. She showed me how to relax, to lighten up.

"She taught me how to love," he added. "I didn't know the true meaning of it until I met her. She really showed me what it was all about."

She also showed him the beauty of the natural world.

"She loved to walk on the beach," he said. "I never appreciated it. It was just a big nasty ocean with a bad smell. But she made me see the beauty of things that I didn't see before I met her."

On the beach at Cancun, Mexico, for instance, she was "just mesmerized. The look on her face!"

Mary Ellen was born in Bristol to George and Ann Dietrick. She attended Millersville University and Bucks County Community College.

After a stint as a waitress in a Newtown, Bucks County, restaurant she joined the Daily News as a part-time secretary in the sports department.

"She was a good worker," retired executive sports editor Mike Rathet said. "It wasn't easy working in an all-male environment, and I could be very difficult. She was very efficient in handling expense accounts, lining up postseason credentials for the reporters and other chores. I liked her a lot."

When there was an opening in the human resources department, she moved there for full-time work and benefits.

"She was such a wonderful, exuberant and hardworking member of the human-resources staff," said Chris Bonaducci, senior human resources director. "I always admired her ability to manage the many challenges her job presented and the responsibility of raising a family.

"She was such a beautiful spirit with a warm and caring laugh and smiling eyes I will never forget."

In 2001, Mary Ellen joined Urban Engineers, a Philadelphia engineering company, as an administrative assistant in the construction department.

"She was a very pleasant person," said her boss, Leo Leonetti, vice president of the construction unit. "She never got ruffled. We had some 150 people in the field and there were always problems with benefits, time sheets, expense accounts. Nothing was too difficult for her. She solved the problems."

"She developed a fascination for engineering," her husband said. "At an annual Christmas party, people would come up to me and say, 'Your wife makes life so much easier. She makes everybody feel good.' "

Mary Ellen was devoted to her children, and her boxer, Duce Charlie Horn, named after former Eagles running back Duce Staley and incorporating the name Charlie that her children favored.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her mother, Ann; two daughters, Rebecca Guld and Pamela Horn; two sons, Jason and Justin, and two sisters, Elaine Cawley and Christine Schleider.

Services: Mass of Christian Burial 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Bristol Pike and Hulmeville Road, Bensalem. Friends may call at 8:30 a.m. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Mary Ellen Horn Children's Fund, Box 140, 700A S. Whitemarsh Pike, Somerdale, N.J., 08083-1247.