Ferdinand "Ferd" Mueller
Ferdinand Aron Mueller (Ferd) of Canon City, Colorado passed away on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at the age of 95.
Ferd was born on January 7, 1923, in Bellevue, Iowa. He was the 4th oldest of 12 children born to Alfred and Nettie Mueller. He was an active youth helping to drive the team of horses during oat harvesting, picking blueberries with his sisters, milking the cow, cleaning the barn and serving as an altar boy in the local Catholic Church. He took a job at Schaab’s garage (a local fueling station and repair shop) at the age of 12. There he saved enough money to buy the family a half beef, along with some toys and candy for his sisters. He enjoyed sports and music helping to start a local baseball team and playing drums in a school band.
As he neared adulthood, Ferd seriously considered entering into the Catholic Priesthood as a career. These plans were interrupted by a blind date with Jeanne Catherine Chapman, who was attending Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa. Soon after their first date, Jeanne became ill with an ear infection and during this time, Ferd began to care for her deeply and the two planned to marry. The plans were delayed in 1943 when Ferd was drafted into the Army to join the allied forces in Europe during World War II. On one particular leave, Jeanne joined Ferd stateside for a military ball where the two swore that whatever song was playing when they entered the ball would be “Their Song”. The song playing was “The Beer Barrel Polka”, which became a family joke for years. As they said goodbye, they agreed that in his letters home, the letter starting each paragraph would spell the name of the city where he was located in Europe (GIs were not allowed to disclose whereabouts in letters). This turned out to be a poor plan as Jeanne’s family atlas was not detailed enough to find the towns anyway.
Ferd served his country from 1943 to 1945. After basic training, he volunteered to be an airman and joined the newly forming Air Corps (now known as the Air Force). Midway through his training, he was removed from the Corps and shipped to France. This was during preparations for D-Day and all military personnel with infantry training were pulled from whatever else they were doing to rally in Europe. He was part the 63rd Infantry, 254th Battalion. He participated in the battle to free Jebsheim, France from German rule. As a member of the intelligence unit he was awarded the Bronze Star for running through enemy fire to map out the German gun positions, which were subsequently taken out by air attack. The 254th Battalion was awarded Frances highest award for an American GI, the “Croix de Guerre”, given by Charles de Gaulle for those infantry men who played a critical role in setting France free from German rule. The award for his Battalion came late and Mueller never received his award until the local VFW in Canon City presented his medal in a special ceremony with family and friends when he was 90 years old.
Ferd returned from the war and was married to Jeanne on June 17, 1947 in Dubuque, IA. He entered Iowa State on the GI bill and received a degree in Ceramic Engineering in June of 1949. In July of 1949, the pair moved to Canon City, Colorado where they would go on to live and raise a family for the next 69 years. Their first of 7 children was born in Canon City on September 25, 1949.
Ferd’s professional career started with the move to Canon City and a job at Freeman Firebrick, where he learned all aspects of the manufacture of fire brick for the steel industry. Freeman Firebrick was a supplier to the Steel Mill in Pueblo, CO. When the founder, Charlie Freeman, retired, he sold the company to Harbison Walker. When Harbison was threatening to close its doors, Mueller pulled together a team of private investors and founded Colorado Refractories, a company that employed hundreds of Fremont County residents for over 22 years. Colorado Refractories not only provided its signature “Royal Gorge” fire brick to CF&I Steel in Pueblo, but forged into new technologies developing specialty refractories and monolithic products. Under Mueller’s leadership, the company thrived until he sold it in 1990 to Adience (later BMI) France, who continued to run the company another 8 years.
The one asset of Colorado Refractories that Mueller did not sell were the mineral rights for the stone in and around Fremont County, from which came the rich clay for brick manufacturing. These rights proved to be the fuel for Mueller’s next venture. Above the clay was a layer of decorative sandstone that Ferd always thought made for beautiful landscaping. In the 1990’s he began to market this stone to local communities for decorative retaining walls and city landscaping. After landing a huge contract with the City of Breckenridge, Siloam Stone was off to the races. Ferd hired his sons, Matthew and Brad to run the company and Siloam Stone thrives to this day employing office staff and laborers at the quarry near Wetmore, Colorado.
Ferd Mueller believed in and promoted the community around him. He often referred to community as an apple tree where each person draws from the other and from the community itself. As a civic leader, he served as President of the Chamber of Commerce, the railroad crossing committee, and the committee to bring cable television to Canon City. He was a Boy Scout leader (Silver Beaver Award recipient), a life-long Rotarian and founding member of the Fremont County Engineering Scholarship Foundation. He loved to go dancing with his beloved Jeanne, sing with family and friends and eat out at local restaurants. Local restaurant owners and employees knew him to not just tip the servers but cashiers and other staff members. He wouldn’t just pay his bill and leave but visited with and encouraged patrons and staff as he made his way out of the restaurant. His typical discourse began with a gruff, stern command or reprimand for shock factor. After he got your attention, his eyes would twinkle and a grin would form to let you know it was all in good fun. Perhaps his most significant community contribution was his love and dedication to St Michael’s Catholic Church, where he was not only a member and regular attender but also served on parish council and stewardship committees as well as being a Eucharistic minister and Lecter.
When Dementia began to afflict Jeanne, Ferd became her care giver in the home, along with help from family members. After a serious stroke left Jeanne requiring constant care at Progressive Care Center (PCC), Ferd visited her every day to enjoy some time together and say their evening prayers. As Ferd’s body began to fail him, he joined Jeanne at PCC where the two enjoyed meals and time together for over a year, not to mention the fine care and love from the staff at PCC. In June of last year (2017), Ferd and Jeanne celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Ferd is preceded in death by his parents (Alfred and Nettie Mueller) and his siblings (Esther Wood, Hazel Cooney, Arlene Mader, Lois Palmer, Alfred Mueller, William Mueller, Loren Mueller, and Robert Mueller). He is survived by his sisters (Mary Weisnewski, Bernice Belitz and Betty Ripley), his wife Jeanne Mueller, his children and their spouses Doug (Carol), Jeff (Connie), Nancy (Stan) Silengo, Brad (Linda), Matt (Sharon), Mark (Karen), Jim (Thelma), along with 34 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild.
Vigil service, 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 25, Mass of Christian Burial 9:00 a.m., Saturday, May 26, St. Michael Catholic Church. Interment with military honors to follow, Lakeside Cemetery, in Canon City.
In lieu of flowers please send prayers for the family.