The love William “Bill” Mueller had for the Lilac Village and the admiration Lombard residents had for their longtime village president emanated throughout his funeral Mass Saturday morning.
About 400 people, many donning purple shirts or ribbons, came to St. Pius X Catholic Church to pay tribute to Mueller, who died Aug. 18 at age 76 from complications of West Nile virus. He was also battling the cancer multiple myeloma at the time of his death.
Purple ribbons were wrapped around all the trees surrounding the church — where Mueller visited every Sunday and often during the week, too.
The Rev. Thomas Paul said Mueller’s last words — from the prayer “Our Father” — were “words of faith,” and that Mueller was “truly and totally” a Catholic.
Mueller served as a school board member for St. Pius X from 1968 to 1974 and spent much of his time at the church, helping with everything from Cub Scouts to building renovations in the 1980s.
His work in Lombard and DuPage County was also extensive. He was a village trustee from 1975-79, held leadership positions on the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and the DuPage Water Commission and served as village president since 1993.
“This is a man who had LOMBARD on his license plate because he had it in his heart,” Paul said, adding that Mueller’s energy, zeal and courage to do things came from support from his family — especially Eileen, his wife of 52 years — Lombard residents and God.
At one point, Paul read an excerpt from Mueller’s last State of the Village address, highlighting a point when he said, “Remember, every day is a gift. Take time to enjoy it.”
Former village clerk Lorraine Gerhardt said she admired Mueller’s wisdom, responsibility, fairness and great ability to negotiate and communicate. But, she said, one of his best talents was being a good friend.
“Bill, my good friend, thank you,” Gerhardt said, leaving the podium to a round of applause.
With her sister Debbie Rapata by her side, Donna Fruehe said some of their father’s favorite things in life included parades, fireworks and sweets. She noted, to laughs, that they even put a chocolate doughnut in his casket.
Fruehe said Mueller loved calling residents on their birthdays, and on his own birthday, which fell on Halloween, he would playfully make the children sing Happy Birthday to him instead of saying trick-or-treat.
“The town of Lombard will miss our dad and his passion for the community. The village hall employees will miss my dad. His second family. St. Pius Church, and the school, will miss his presence. I personally, will miss my father. I called him the miracle man. He inspired me every day,” Fruehe said, breaking into tears.
Fruehe thanked everyone for attending the Mass and told them not to forget what Mueller taught them over the years.
“He loved every single one of you,” she said, as people in the pews wiped tears from their eyes.
A line of vehicles from the village’s police, fire, public works and building departments — along with about 100 cars — circled around Lombard before heading to Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside. Residents could be seen watching the procession from street corners around the village.
“He was quite a guy,” resident Mary Gerlesits said, adding that hundreds attended a visitation for Mueller the day before. “He was Lombard.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.