“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;”—Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 KJV
Kenneth Howard Mueller, born 27 March 1940, died early Tuesday morning at St. Vincent’s Hospital of cardiac arrest. He was fortunate to have said his goodbyes to most of the people he cared for. He apologizes to those he missed. He was always grateful for the attention of his many medical and surgical attendants, particularly his lovely and attentive nurses, and his many caring friends and relatives.
He is survived by his long-patient and loving wife of 50 years, Carol Ann LuConic, the best nurse he ever knew; and by his children and grandchildren, Margaret Anne and Patrick Mazzuca of Issaquah, Wash., (Nicholas and Zachary), Joan Marie and Donald McInnes of Novato, Calif., (Matthew and Michael), Peter Thomas of Billings, and S. Elizabeth Mueller Gomez of Albuquerque, N.M., (Diego Salvador). His three younger brothers all survive him as well. They are Gerald Ronald of Sun Prairie, Wis.; Russell Ramon of Baneberry, Tenn.; and Thomas David of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ken was the eldest son of Walde H. Mueller and Joann Rohrschneider, both of Hustisford Wis. He was born a little too soon for some, in Harvey, Ill., on the south side of Chicago, and spent most of his childhood back in that rural southern Wisconsin village just south of Lake Sinissippi and on the nearby Mueller farm and Rohrschneider cottage of his parents and grandparents.
One of his earliest memories was the joy and delight he felt when he discovered the Rock River on a map from a filling station — that is where we used to buy gasoline: he knew that was the name of the river that flowed through the village, and saw that it was a tributary of the Mississippi River. So, from an early age he had the urge to see the world outside of that village, and he knew at least one way to find his way to the rest of the world and back; and as irony often has it, spent some of his later years searching for that familiar home.
He was graduated from Hustisford High School in 1957, in a rural part of southern Wisconsin, notable for small towns and dairy farms and of course, rabid Green Bay Packers fans. He remembered particularly Mrs. Mahr, his favorite English teacher and Mr. Schlicht, the principal and math teacher who labored mightily to teach him the elements of algebra and geometry. He was granted a B.S. degree in chemistry from Carroll College of Waukesha, Wis., in 1961, primarily due to the good offices of Chemistry Professor A.A. Sunier. He went on to attend Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1965.
His early post-graduate medical training was in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, but finding the practice of that specialty too difficult he switched into laboratory medicine, eventually spending much of his professional time in the sub-specialty of forensic — from the Latin “forum” where public business was conducted — medicine and pathology.
After finishing his pediatric and pathologic post-graduate studies, he proudly served his country as a medical officer in the United States Air Force, including a tour as an exchange officer with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Forces at the Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine, Bucks, UK, where he was strongly influenced by Group Captain Ken Mason who would later become the Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
On returning to the U.S.A., he studied Forensic Pathology with Russell Fisher at the Office of the Medical Examiner of Maryland in Baltimore and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. After moving to Montana in 1980 he transferred to the Naval Reserve — he always liked the uniform — in Billings and eventually Seattle. He was retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain.
He finally found a city and a home for his family and a pleasant place to work in Billings, having guessed from the people he met on a single three-day visit that Billings was a good place to raise a family. He was appointed to the post of Associate Medical Examiner for the State of Montana in the fall of 1980 and remained in that position until he retired in 2010. He was fond of Billings, its people and places, especially Peace Lutheran Church, St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral, Saint Vincent Hospital, and restaurants too numerous to count. Though he called Billings home, his early years in Wisconsin meant that he was a faithful Green Bay Packer fan: “Once a cheesehead, always a cheesehead” was one of his favorite sayings. He was always on the lookout for something resembling the brick cheese and summer sausage he remembered from his earlier days in Wisconsin.
He enjoyed playing the trombone with various large and small groups, the Community Band and Community Orchestra, and especially the Al Bedoo Shriners Dance Band and the Billings Brass Society: he was a founding member of the last. He was an enthusiastic, though not especially talented singer in various church choirs. He was sometimes a performer and at other times a listener to the Messiah Chorus. He admired the ensemble sound of the Billings Symphony, in particular the low brass and of course, the splendid woodwinds. Rimrock Opera was one of his regular haunts along with Billings Studio Theatre and Venture Theatre.
He was a loyal supporter of Little League baseball, Legion baseball, and the Billings Mustangs. If you wanted to find him on a summer evening then you would probably be successful to look for him somewhere at Cobb Field, perhaps just beyond the Mustang dugout, and in later years, somewhere in the shade. He never was persuaded that Dehler Park was better than Cobb Field, though the bratwurst, coming from Wisconsin, and the burgers, especially the “Stang Burger” of Dehler Park, would be hard to beat.
He enjoyed travel, especially his round-the-world trips and up and down the Pacific Coast of Central and South America with Semester at Sea, which he viewed as a form of pilgrimage. Visiting his widely scattered grandchildren and seeing what was available at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland, Ore., were other forms of pilgrimage.
In his later years he loved to blog away on his favorite Mac computer, usually the latest one. He paid close attention to the obituaries as well as the readings and music at the funerals of friends and acquaintances. Once or twice a year he would add or subtract from his obituary.
He read a lot of bridge books — as well as a lot of other genres — but did not find time to play all that much, and when he did his bidding was always better than his play of the cards. There was never enough time to read all that appealed. When asked if he had read all the books in his library, he would usually respond, “If a man has read the whole of his library, then his library is not large enough.”
In the past year he finally found enough time to play bridge as he and Carol began splitting their time between Billings and Phoenix. They made many good friends in Arizona and he loved his time there taking in as much baseball as could be reasonably digested at Spring Training.
If you feel the need to make a donation in his honor please consider Billings’ American Legion Baseball, or Rimrock Opera, or Billings Symphony, or Venture Theatre, or Billings Studio Theatre, or even better, all of these worthy organizations.
Memorial Mass will be held at St Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings at noon Tuesday, Aug. 21, celebrating the life of this great, unique man who we loved, admired and cherished. Arrangements are in the care of Dahl Funeral Chapel and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlfuneralchapel.com.