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Helen B. Mueller, age 99, formerly of Manitowoc, passed away peacefully on November 12 at Agrace Hospice in Madison.
Helen was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on September 9, 1924, daughter of Hans and Marie (nee Baier) Buchner, who had emigrated from Austria in 1923.
Educated in Sheboygan public schools, she developed an early love of music and literature, singing in school operettas and playing first chair flute and piccolo in the band and orchestra. She graduated with honors from Sheboygan Central High School in 1942.
Following High School, Helen entered Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1945. As a student nurse during World War II when many nurses and doctors were in military service, she recalls an accelerated learning curve and the early assumption of major responsibilities. After graduation she served as head nurse for several months before heading to UW Madison to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Working at Madison General Hospital to put herself through school, Helen was praised by a patient as a “cracker jack nurse” to the State Health Officer, who asked if she had ever considered a career in Public Health. That conversation—coupled with the offer of a stipend and scholarship--led her to her lifelong calling. She graduated in 1947 with a Certification in Public Health.
Helen’s first interview out of college was with Manitowoc County, where she was hired as the ‘County Nurse’. With automobiles in short supply, the County Board arranged for her to be able to purchase one for her job—though she didn’t yet know how to drive. Her brother taught her in a weekend and she was on her way.
She met Harold Mueller, then a young assistant district attorney, while they were working on a case together. They were married in 1949. With the birth of the first of three children in 1951, she left public health nursing to raise her family. As the children grew, Helen turned her talents to serving as Sunday School teacher, Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, and all-round volunteer, with the house becoming a hub for many a post-sledding and skating gathering of her children’s friends.
In 1968, Helen accepted an offer to return as Director of Public Health Nursing on an interim basis for “a few months” until the recently vacated position could be filled. 22 years later, in 1990, she retired from that position. During her tenure, which included an active stint as President of the 12th District Nurses Association, she was an innovative leader, a caring nurse, and a skilled administrator who valued her colleagues. Always modest about her accomplishments, when asked what she saw as her most important contribution she replied “I hired good nurses.”
Helen gave freely of her time, serving on the boards of the Red Cross, Family Service, Mental Health Association and others. A longtime member of First Reformed United Church of Christ (now Peace UCC), she served in many capacities, including as its first woman President of the Church Council.
When Helen found something she liked to do, she stuck with it. Her early love of literature stayed with her through her many decades of friendship and spirited discussion with her treasured AAUW book group, transitioning to books on tape when her eyesight began to fail. An early morning swimmer during her working years, she saw no reason to deviate from her 5 a.m. arrival at the YMCA pool after she retired, continuing her schedule and her friendship with fellow swimmers until she was 90. She loved to travel and learn, relishing her experiences in the U.S, Europe and as part of Manitowoc’s delegation to its sister city Kamagawa, Japan. And her love of music was with her always, whether delighting in the performance of others, singing (and sometimes tap dancing) for her grandchildren, or playing Christmas flute duets with her daughter at family gatherings well in to her ‘80s.
Helen’s generous life made a difference in the lives of many. A devoted wife and mother, a caring friend, and a good listener to all, she combined a love of family and a love of profession that made her in many ways a woman before her time.
Helen is survived by her children, Judge Emily Mueller (J. Denis Moran) of Racine, John (Barbara) Mueller of Middleton, and Paul (Susan) Mueller of Green Bay, and her sister Betty Laden of Colorado Springs. Also surviving are grandchildren Julia Mueller (Garrett Voss) of Sun Prairie, Kurt (Molly) Mueller of Lake Elmo MN, and Sarah Mueller (Andrew Laufenberg) of Madison, and great grandchildren Shepherd and Theodore Voss. She was preceded in death by her husband, Judge Harold W. Mueller in 1986; and by her parents and her brother Robert Buchner.
A funeral service to celebrate Helen’s life will be held on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at 11:00 am at Peace United Church of Christ, 3613 Waldo Blvd., with Rev. Dr. Matthew Sauer officiating. Relatives and friends may greet the family on Tuesday, November 28, 2023 at the church from 9:30 am until the time of service at 11:00 am. Helen will be laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Manitowoc.
Expressions of sympathy can be made to the family by visiting www.lakeshorefamilyfuneralhomes.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Peace United Church of Christ and Manitowoc Public Library in Helen’s memory.
The Lakeshore Family Funeral Homes, Jens location, is assisting the family with arrangements.