Lake Elsinore Historical Society President Ruth Atkins stares at the cream-colored paperback cover of the group's new book, "Lake Elsinore," and smiles.
Donna Morin would have loved this, she said.
Morin, who co-founded the historical society in 1996 and served as president for several years, died Dec. 24, two months before the book's Feb. 25 release date.
The historical society thanks Morin for her contributions in the book's acknowledgements.
"We are sad she did not live to see the book," Atkins said. "We owe her a big debt of gratitude for starting the society. There is a lot to be said about what Donna did to preserve the history of Lake Elsinore and make it available to the community."
"It just goes to show you what one determined woman can accomplish," fellow member Jeanie Corral said.
The 127-page book, part of Arcadia Publishing's "Postcard History Series," is believed to be one of 50 books inspired by the history of southwestern Riverside County's oldest city.
It chronicles the city's eclectic past, from its heyday in the 1920s as a celebrity destination to its darker moments in the 1950s when the lake dried up, through a series of 200 black-and-white postcards and photographs.
The book's chapters include sections on the city's early days, transportation and agriculture, famed evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's mansion, which she built as a summer home in the 1930s, the city's schools and hotels and its rich recreational history.
Corral, who has authored two books about Lake Elsinore schools and one of its venerable churches, said much of the interest in Lake Elsinore's past comes from the unique mix of people who defined the city and their stories.
Corral said her favorite stories are the long-running legend of "Elsie," the sea monster who supposedly resides in the lake's dark waters, and the story of the Nakai family, who lost their home when they were forced into internment camps during World War II, but returned to find the community held it for them, and gave it back for $1.
"It just goes to show the cohesiveness of this town," Corral said. "In times like this, this town pulled together."
The historical society started planning the book in May 2007 when Arcadia Publishing approached them about making the book 18 months after Arcadia published another book about the city's history.
"They recognized the outstanding and interesting history of Lake Elsinore," Atkins said.
Society members had 90 days to compile the postcards and photographs, contributed by a number of local folks and society members, and had one week after receiving the first draft to correct any mistakes.
They resubmitted the book to Arcadia around Oct. 1, Atkins said.
Morin, who had become seriously ill about the same time as the book's final print was sent off, never got to see the book, Atkins said.
The historical society will use the book's proceeds, which it will share with Arcadia, to promote its preservation efforts, including archiving the stories of Lake Elsinore's longtime residents on video and potential expansion of the two museums.
"It's something Donna would want us to continue," Atkins said.