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Era of change


1950 - 1974


In a time of social reform and political upheaval, Bloomington made efforts to better race relations, gender inequality and education policies. As the Vietnam War, John F. Kennedy assassination and Civil Rights Movement rocked the nation, Bloomingtonians steadfastly continued to build upon their solid foundation.

One family who forged Bloomington: The Seward legacy

1975 – present: Marilyn Seward Warden

Over the years, the Sewards married into other prominent Bloomington families – the Regesters, the Dunns and the Taylors, to name a few. Many Seward descendants are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery alongside Kirkwoods, Buskirks and Waldrons. Some are buried in Dunn Cemetery, the little family graveyard tucked away behind Beck Chapel along the bank of the Jordan River.

The first person to be buried in Dunn Cemetery was, in fact, a Seward – an infant son of the original Austin Seward, buried there in 1832. When the Dunn family sold a plot of land that included the cemetery to Indiana University, they did so with the stipulation that their descendants could continue to be buried there.

If you wander through the cemetery today, peering at the worn death dates going back a hundred years or more, you might find the name “Marilyn Seward Warden.”

Marilyn was born in 1923 to Edith Regester Seward and William Austin Seward, Fred Seward’s brother. Marilyn lived most of her life in Bloomington, contributing to the community that had nurtured her family’s legacy. In 1970, she began serving on the company’s board of directors – a role she held until the business closed in 1983.

Seward & Co. had served the Bloomington community for 162 years, across six generations of Sewards. But even as the business was laid to rest, the family’s legacy continued.

Marilyn devoted much of her time to volunteer work through the IU Foundation, Bloomington Meals-On-Wheels and the Bloomington Hospital Auxiliary, among other organizations. She poured her energy into the preservation of Monroe County history and for many years worked as a docent at the Monroe County History Center on Sixth Street. Monroe County was one of Marilyn’s greatest passions. The preservation of history – not only of her family, but also of all of Monroe County – was important to her. Upon her death in 2004, her family asked that money be donated to the history center in her memory.

“There was a lot of interest in family there, and a need to pass things on,” Allen Dunn recalls of Marilyn, who was his mother’s cousin. He sees parallels between Marilyn and his own mother, Janet. Both women dedicated their lives to raising their families, caring for aging parents and preserving their family’s legacy.

Wayne Warden Jr., Marilyn’s husband of 56 years, was also active in multiple organizations, including the Bloomington Country Club, the IU Foundation and the Ham Radio Club of Bloomington. Wayne served in the military for 39 years, visited every continent on the planet and had seen all 50 states by the time he died in 2015 at 98. He was laid to rest at Marilyn’s side.

Fashion of the era


Lake Monroe brings water and recreation to town.

In 1960, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to create Monroe Reservoir to prevent flooding and provide millions of gallons of water to the growing city. At 10,750 acres after its completion in 1965, Lake Monroe became the biggest man-made lake in the entire state of Indiana.

As Bloomington’s population and industry increased, so did the demand for water. Griffy reservoir helped for a time, followed by Lake Lemon. But still, the problem wasn’t solved. In 1960, officials decided that a reservoir was needed, and Lake Monroe was born. Taking a total of five years and $16.5 million, the lake was built by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a part of the Flood Control Plan approved by an Act of Congress in 1958. The original purpose of the lake was to serve solely as flood control, but it became the primary water source for Bloomington as well as for seven rural water companies – a total of 100,000 people use the Lake Monroe water supply.

The actual creation of the lake was devastating to many local citizens. Three hundred homes, three schools, eight cemeteries and the last three covered bridges in Monroe County had to be moved or evacuated before the lake was filled by a dam on Salt Creek. The town of Elkinsville, in the flood plain, all but disappeared. Today a monument marks the names of the original families of “The Town That Was.”

Since its completion in 1965, Lake Monroe has saved the county over $38 million in flood damage. It’s also the largest lake in Indiana and a recreational center for boating, camping, fishing and hiking.

William Cook (1931 – 2011)

Founder of Cook Medical Inc. and philanthropist

Born in Mattoon, Illinois, in 1931, Cook studied biology at Northwestern University and graduated in 1953. He planned to go to medical school but was drafted into the army as a surgical technician. In 1963, he and his wife, Gayle, moved to Bloomington and founded Cook Medical, which initially made guidewires for heart catheters, in the spare bedroom of their Bloomington apartment.

“He started with basically nothing but ideas” says Bob Hammel, who wrote The Bill Cook Story.

Cook Medical began with only two people but now employs over 9,500 With an estimated wealth of $3.1 billion, Cook was named in 2011 as the 101st richest man in the world by Forbes Magazine. Today, the corporation today is a global operation that employs 9,500 people and has annual revenue of $1.5 billion.

But Cook’s influence extended well beyond the business community. He and his wife made substantial donations to the Jacobs School of Music and IU Athletics and played a prominent role in historic preservation throughout Southern Indiana, including the restoration of the resort hotels at West Baden and French Lick.

Historian James Madison says Cook changed the economy of Bloomington but also drove the city’s historic preservation efforts. “He didn’t just restore old buildings such as Fountain Square, but he tried doing preservation that provided Bloomington a better quality of life and economic opportunities.”

Then and now