Those who knew Bill Mueller well say the Lombard village president cared most for his family and his hometown.
On Thursday, those two important parts of Mueller's life came together at village hall to honor a man remembered as a faithful public servant and pillar of the community.
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It was the first meeting of the village board since Mueller's death last Saturday from complications of West Nile virus. Mueller, 76, had also been battling the cancer multiple myeloma.
For nearly two decades, he was village president -- the longest serving in Lombard history -- who lived by the mantra "Always do what's good and right for the village of Lombard," Trustee Keith Giagnorio said.
And while Mueller may no longer be physically present, a proclamation adopted by the village board Thursday says, "Lombard now has a guardian angel in Bill Mueller, who will continue to watch over the village."
"We know that he's still with us," Trustee Peter Breen said. "He's still advocating for us. We have an advocate for ourselves now, in a different way."
Mueller's family members, including wife Eileen and daughters Debbie Rapata and Donna Fruehe, accepted bouquets of flowers from trustees -- and Mueller's gavel, which he used to preside over village board meetings.
Mueller, born Oct. 31, 1935, was a lifelong Lombardian; even his car's license plate said "LOMBARD." His first leadership stint began when he joined the Lombard Safety Committee in 1957; he later served as a village trustee from 1975 to 1979 and began his tenure as village president in 1993. He also represented Lombard outside the village as a member of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and DuPage Water Commission.
Not only did Mueller have his "arm stretched out" to his colleagues in the western suburbs, he also did the same with Chicago, said Trustee Greg Gron, the village's president pro-tem who presided over Thursday night's meeting.
Gron recalls attending an event on behalf of the village one time when Mueller was ill. Two days later, flowers arrived at village hall for Mueller from then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"He he had the respect of his peers in the Western suburbs and the city of Chicago," said Gron, fighting back tears. "That's pretty cool. He's truly part of an American family."
Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said Mueller embraced his role in local government because he saw the day-to-day effect it could have on people.
"As local government officials, we can walk down the street and marvel at the work we do to make lives better for our neighbors and our community. And for Bill Mueller, that was everything. That was all he ever wanted, because he was a man fulfilled. He was the mayor's mayor and the people's mayor," she said.
Visitation for Mueller is from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1025 E. Madison, Lombard. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church, with interment to follow at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.
Meanwhile, Gron said the village board will consider an ordinance at its next meeting Sept. 6 to appoint a temporary village president from among the six current trustees. That person could retain voting privileges as a trustee, or formally step down as a trustee and only vote to break ties.
Gron, elected in 2005 and currently the most senior standing trustee, serves as president pro tem.