Virginia Mullery has made a significant contribution as a journalist and writer through numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and books about the people in her community. See below for a short biography and essay about the part the Waukegan Public Library played in her writing life.
“I was born, Virginia Lyons, in 1928 to an Irish immigrant father and second generation Irish mother. My world was the vibrant multi-ethnic south side of Waukegan where I played in Roosevelt Park and attended McAlister School (now Carman-Buckner School). My extended family of grandmother, aunt and uncles lived only blocks away. Our northern boundary was Immaculate Conception Church on Grand Avenue. It was a warm and embracing environment.
After graduating from Holy Child High School in Waukegan, I attended Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English. In 1959 I married John Mullery of Gurnee and we had five children. We raised our family in North Chicago, only blocks south of my childhood home, and have lived in our present home for almost 40 years. I am a member of Queen of Peace Parish in North Chicago.
Between college and marriage I worked for several magazines in Chicago, then took time off to raise my family. I became a stringer for the News Sun in the early 1970s, writing feature stories. Later I worked in-house for the paper, writing, and editing “The Bride,” a weekly tabloid section that reported weddings, engagements and anniversaries.
Launching my career as a full-time free-lancer in the 1980s, I reported “Lake County News” for The New World, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago newspaper; edited a newsletter for the City of North Chicago; wrote features for the “Tempo Lake” section of the Chicago Tribune; and contributed to Abbott Laboratories and the College of Lake County publications. I also edited the book, Lake Bluff: The First 100 Years by Elmer Vliet and wrote another book, Waukegan’s Legacy: Our Landmarks for the Waukegan Historical Society.
In 1989, Windsor Publications commissioned me to write Lake County, Illinois: This Land of Lakes and Rivers, an illustrated history to commemorate the bicentennial of the incorporation of the county. It was sponsored by the Lake County Chamber of Commerce. For me it became a labor of love, a testimonial to this place in which I am rooted.
Now that my husband is retired, I have also cut back, writing only one feature a month for Senior Connection, which is distributed throughout the Chicago area at churches and senior centers.
Books as Inspiration:
When I was a child, growing up on the south side of Waukegan in the 1930s, the Waukegan Public Library rented a store in my father’s building as a branch library. We lived upstairs so the library was my second home – my turf, so to speak. Books have been faithful and constant companions ever since. I still thrill to the beauty of the written word, to the turn of the phrase, and am inspired by the word masters who put them together.
I cannot remember a time when I did not write – letters to cousins in Ireland, illustrated stories on notebook paper in grade school, narrative poems for high school annuals. In college I edited and wrote for the literary magazine with dreams of becoming a great fiction writer. That in itself was fiction. I was not very good at it, although fiction remains my favorite form of reading.
Then, after a hiatus to raise a family, I found my genre in feature writing. I was good at interviewing – my nosy nature, perhaps – and reasonably good at putting those interviews into interesting stories.
I believe every person has a story to tell and I love to relate those stories. I also love this community and the richness of its history. When Windsor Publications approached me to write a history of Lake County for its 150th anniversary I was delighted to search out the stories of the people who formed this county for a place is nothing except for the people who inhabit it.
Neither is a writer anything without people to read her work, so for all the people who have read my stories and my book and encouraged me through the years, I am deeply grateful.”