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History and Mystery in First Church Graveyard wins awards

Lansing writer Marlene Cook honored by IWPA

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (August 12, 2020) – The three years that Marlene Cook invested in investigating the names on the headstones at the corner of Ridge Road and Burnham Avenue have been rewarded. The book she wrote about her findings—History and Mystery in First Church Graveyard, published last December—has been honored by the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA).

Cook was among 86 entries in the IWPA’s 79th annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest, and she won three awards.

History and Mystery of First Church Graveyard was awarded second place in the Nonfiction Book for Adult Readers – History category. One of the judges noted in particular the research that Cook put into the project: “Good job!” she wrote. “A commendable effort to obtain the extensive, historical research necessary to produce this unique book.”

Cook also did her own graphic design work on History and Mystery, and she won third place in that category.

In addition to her book, Cook writes a column for IWPA titled “Marlene’s Musings.” That column was awarded first place in the Columns – General category. The judge commented, “A lively and engaging column and columnist, ‘Marlene’s Musings’ always amuses AND informs.”

History and Mystery in First Church Graveyard unearths stories that were lost when First Church burned to the ground in 1945 and all cemetery records were reduced to ashes. Cook reveals the history and mystery of bodies buried not only in the graveyard, but also under the streets and sidewalks of Lansing.

To order a copy of History and Mystery readers can contact Marlene Cook directly at [email protected]. The cost is $12 each with $3 added for shipping.


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


  1. Congratulations to Marlene! Her book is not only important to Lansing, for it’s historical information, it is interesting reading about the settlers and residents of our village. Well done!!

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