Clarence "Clay" Mueller passed away peacefully at the Grand Traverse Pavilions on Oct. 5 at the age of 83, with his loving wife of 57 years, Mary Jo, at his bedside.
Clay was born on Aug. 5, 1933 in Rushville, Indiana, and baptized at St. Mary's Church. Clay received his first Holy Communion and confirmation on Sept. 29, 1940. He grew up on an 80-acre farm in rural southern Indiana.
After attending St. Mary's Elementary and graduating from Rushville High School in 1951, it was Clay's time to take over the family farm. That path, though, was altered when Clay's father unexpectedly sold the farm.
Clay forged a new path, joining the U.S. Army in 1952 as a paratrooper, eventually obtaining a rank of Captain.
Clay then attended Purdue University, graduating in 1960 with an industrial economics degree. Clay loved Purdue and took any opportunity in life to fly a "black & gold" flag, particularly in the middle of Spartan Stadium.
Clay's attraction to Purdue may also be related to his attraction to Mary Jo, whom he met in 1957. After dating a couple of years Clay married Mary Jo Wellinski on Aug. 22, 1959 in LaPorte, Indiana. Thus began a sacramental marriage that lasted for 57 years, filled with children, love, adventure and laughter.
Clay and Mary Jo left the comfort of Indiana in 1960 to venture to Lansing. Thus began a 30-year career with General Motors in its Oldsmobile division. Clay's last assignment was plant superintendent of the Buick Reatta Craft Centre. Clay was highly regarded as a fair leader during these exciting years of automobile manufacturing.
Clay was passionate about his family. He loved his wife, his three sons and his grandchildren. Particularly in his retirement, Clay spent some memorable times with his family on Elk Lake. Clay's infectious smile and laugh were certainly present when he was fishing with the grandchildren.
Clay was passionate about life. His range of activities included fishing, golf, hunting, bowling, travel, speaking (through the GM Speaker's Bureau), building houses (through the Antrim County Habitat for Humanity), donating blood, Boy Scouts, gin rummy and dancing.
Clay's roots as a farmer were expressed in the form of large gardens he maintained. If you were to stop by the Mueller house on most evenings you would be tempted by the smell of Clay's famous popcorn.
Clay's Catholic faith was a core part of his earthly journey. The Mass was an important aspect of his life. Clay was an active parishioner at St. Gerard (Lansing), St. Casimir (Lansing) and Sacred Heart (Elk Rapids). He served the church as the inaugural St. Gerard Festival chair, lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, pastoral and finance council member and diocesan pastoral council member.
Clay is survived by his wife, Mary Jo, of Traverse City; and his children, Mark (Diane) Mueller, of Canton, Mike (Molly) Mueller, of Rochester Hills, and Wayne (Heidi), of Traverse City; his grandchildren, Brad, Paul, Ben, Owen, Jack, Josh and Lauren; and his brother, Frederick.
Clay was preceded in death by his parents, Michael and Irene (Schuman) Mueller; his siblings, Dorothy (Sr. Michaela), Charles, Margaret Mary, Sylvester, Anne Marie and Eileen; and his grandchildren, Katie and Eli.
Visitation will take place at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home from 3 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 9, including a vigil service at 6 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Monday, Oct. 10, at 11 a.m., with visitation one hour prior to the Mass, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Traverse City. Burial will take place at Oakwood Catholic Diocesan Cemetery following the Mass.