Lombard community organizers say money should pour in quickly for a new project they're launching, a memorial to honor late Village President William J. "Bill" Mueller.
A small group of residents is seeking $30,000 to create a garden-like gathering place with a Victorian-style gazebo in the yard of the Victorian Cottage Museum, 23 W. Maple St.
The residents, led by Marymae Meyer, developed the idea for what they're calling the Community Memorial Site for Bill Mueller in collaboration with Mueller's wife, Eileen, and daughters Donna Fruehe and Debbie Rapata.
"We're very, very moved by it," Eileen Mueller said about the memorial. "It just means a great deal."
Meyer said a public gathering place seems a fitting tribute to Mueller, who led the village as president from 1993 until his death last August, because he was always with people, attending ribbon-cuttings, school events and government meetings.
"When I think of Bill Mueller, I naturally think of some kind of gathering place where there are lilacs around," Meyer said. "I think of Lilac Time and Bill Mueller."
Mueller's wife said the memorial will be meaningful because it's not just a decoration, like a plaque or statue, but serves a purpose of uniting the community.
"He was all about bringing Lombard together," she said. "If everyone is doing something together, you've got a great town."
Lilacia Park is just across the street from the planned site of the memorial garden and gazebo, which will be built on Lombard Historical Society property, likely near the carriage house that was expanded last fall.
"It should be just an absolute perfect fit for the historical society," Meyer said. "He really is a part of Lombard's history and will be as the longest-serving president ever. It just seems very fitting all the way around."
Craig Kueltzo, owner of Lombard Pharmacy, was one of the first to donate to the project. He said he expects many other Lombardians to follow and pay tribute to the man who did so much for their town.
"He was a good friend of mine. I've known him for a long time and what he's done for Lombard over the years is insurmountable," Kueltzo said. "I'd like to keep his name and his memory around for as long as possible."
Kueltzo said he will post fliers encouraging pharmacy customers to donate to the memorial fund, which has been established at West Suburban Bank.
Donations can be made to "Community Memorial Site for Bill Mueller" and sent to West Suburban Bank, Attn: Cherilyn, Personal Banker, 711 S. Westmore Ave., Lombard, 60148. Online donations also can be made by credit card or through PayPal at muellermemorial.org/donate.
"Giving everyone a chance to be a part of this while everything Bill did is still fresh in their memories, I think is a fantastic thing," Kueltzo said.
If funds pour in quickly, as organizers expect, the gazebo and garden area could be finished by late summer.
"It will forever be a part of the history of Lombard," Eileen Mueller said. "As Bill certainly will be."