Beloved Husband, Father and Papa
Chuck Mueller led an amazing and very giving life for 1022 months (85 years and 2 months).
Born October 24th, 1924 to Alvin and Marie Mueller in Dayton Kentucky, Dad's family would move back to Cincinnati Ohio several months later. He would call Cincinnati home for the next twenty eight years.
Times were different then, Dad carried ice blocks for the ice box, coal for the furnace. Neither of his parents ever drove a car much less owned one. For those of you who know of Dad's passion for two and four wheeled vehicles, this is difficult to comprehend.
Actually he did try to teach his Mother how to drive, taking her to a school parking lot on a Saturday. She let out the clutch, the engine stalled and she never sat behind a steering wheel again. Grandma didn't refer to them as cars. When we would visit her she would occasionally say "let's go out on the porch and watch the machines go by".
Public transportation worked in Cincinnati and Grandma put it to good use. Dad said she would shop at many stores on a single shopping trip to get the best prices and stretch their depression era income to keep the family comfortable. They had a very nice house for Alvin, Marie, Chuck, Marcie and Ron. Dad was three years older than his sister Marcie and he shared his birthday with brother Ron although Dad was eleven years his senior.
I can only remember Dad saying good things about his father and I believe he thought his mother was a saint. His parents knew how to make a wonderful home and raise three terrific children. Unfortunately cancer claimed Marcie as it had taken his Mother and now Dad. I certainly wish we had spent more time with both Mom and Dad's families but nearly two thousand miles separated us and Dad knew how homesick Mom was for her family. Our thoughts should also be with Uncle Ron as he is the last remaining Mueller from Stratford Avenue. Uncle Ron has a wonderful family with his wife Elaine, their two children – Ron and Marcie plus grandchildren.
After joining the Army Air Corp in 1943, Dad shipped off to England aboard a small ship through rough seas and avoided the German u-boats. He was stationed at Wattisham Air Base which is north east of London. He quickly was promoted to Staff Sergeant, the highest rank for an enlisted man at the time. He lived in a heated barracks (Dad always emphasized the heated part) and worked very hard, maintaining P-38's and P-51 fighters that escorted the allied bombers. They were attacked at the base, Dad was once knocked out of his bunk bed by a German buzz bomb that exploded outside his barracks. Fortunately Dad came back to the States safe and sound aboard the Queen Mary.
Dad rarely spoke about the war but his contributions were quite important and very much appreciated. Dad served mostly in England but also in Africa and Germany after the war ended. I believe the carnage he witnessed formed his conviction that war should be a last resort but also that Good must overcome Evil.
Dad returned to Cincinnati after the war and worked as an automotive mechanic. He had planned to be an architect before entering the military but seemed to have found his true calling. He bought another Harley Davidson, a 1941 EL. Dad loved motorcycles to the extent that he rode virtually year round, even with the Ohio winters. He later bought a new 1949FL. He started with a down payment in August, 1948 and paid it off and picked it up in mid November 1948.
He met Joyce at a Halloween party in 1948 and they married in March of 1950. He had taken a last, long ride to New Orleans to see his Uncle Ralph. Dad had the engagement ring in his pocket. Mom and Dad rented an apartment near Dad's parents and locked in rent with the agreement that they could refurbish the place to their taste. Shortly after completing this project the Air Force Reserves called Dad due to the rising Korean Conflict. They wanted Dad to be an instructor.
Mom and Dad covered up the furniture and Dad reported for duty. Here is how I remember this point in our family history:
Dad reported to the base and the soldier at the desk asked Dad if he wanted to stay or if he would prefer to go home. Dad said something like, "Very Funny". The soldier told Dad he was serious and that they had called up more reserves than they needed. Dad turned to leave and the soldier said "wait, you can't leave until we process your paperwork. Two weeks later Dad was on his way back to Mom.
By 1952 Mom and Dad had decided to move to California (OK, Dad had decided about 1943). They bought a truck to move their belongings, Mom drove the car and Dad the truck. Good fortune found Dad again when he hired in at the new Lockheed Aircraft Service in Ontario. Several other aviation firms were there but only LAS lasted in Ontario as long as Dad's 37 year career.
In 1957 Dad traveled to Marietta Georgia for training on the new Lockheed C130. He spent several months but this aircraft became the backbone of his career. Most mechanics can work on the airframe Or the Engines or the Electrical Systems. Not only was Dad certified on the Airframe, Power Plant and Electrical Systems but he also had his run card for powering up the engines and even had his taxi card in order to move the C130 under its own power. Dad had wanted to be a pilot in WWII but his height kept him out of fighters and his eyesight kept him out of fighters and bombers. For our family this is fortunate that he stayed on the ground most of the time.
Dad attained a high level of clearance for secret government projects in 1959 and from 1963 to 1965 he left home on Monday morning and returned Friday night. Not only was he not allowed to tell us where he was or what he was working on but he would maintain that secrecy for over twenty years until the government declassified the YF12-A aircraft. These were the early CIA versions of the SR71 Blackbird spy planes. I bought Dad a Lockheed Skunkworks book years ago and he recognized his plane by the tail number. Dad was in charge of the crew that maintained the aircraft thru development and flight testing. Even when the project was declassified, Dad still guarded much of what went on at "The Ponderosa".
After Dad was home for nearly two years he had his gallbladder removed, which was major. The doctor recommended that Dad not return to work for three to four weeks. Lockheed called and wanted Dad to take a new field position overseeing the crews to maintain a C130 and a Sikorsky helicopter at Pt. Magu Naval Range. They wanted him to start right away so off he went, one week after surgery. This new program was titled Mid Air Recovery Systems (MARS) and I assumed it was to practice recovering spacecraft from mid air instead of always landing in the ocean as was the practice then for U.S.A. space capsules. Dad moved us to Camarillo for the next three years. The program was then moved to Edwards Air Force Base and Dad moved us back to Ontario. Many years later I was watching the Discovery Channel and saw a program where a Ryan Firebee drone was fired from a C130, flew over hostile parts of Southeast Asia while filming enemy installations and movements. The drone flew past the enemy and into a friendly area where it was plucked from mid air by a Sikorsky helicopter. This is what Dad's program had been refining at Pt. Magu.
While Dad's aircraft career had certainly taken off, so had his love of cars. In 1956 he purchased a 1953 Studebaker Starliner. Next to Mom and his family, this car was the love of his life. In the mid sixties Dad started taking us to classic car shows and by 1968 he wanted to covert the '53 to a more stock condition. Dad and I drove the car to Rapid City for the 1999 Studebaker International meet. We drove to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, Four Corners, over the continental divide, Garden of the God's, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and down the coast in eight days. We could have taken longer but Dad wanted to get back home to Mom! We had a great time and I always was proud of how Dad just lit up when telling people about that trip.
Dad's Studebaker was so authentic that the Maisto model company used it to create a die cast model of the 1953 Studebaker Starliner, which even has Dad's license plate number.
In 1978 the Greek government wanted to build an aircraft maintenance facility outside of Athens. Lockheed loaned them sixty employees and after consultation with the family Dad took the job. He, Mom and Mark lived there for two years and did a lot of exploring. They showed me a wonderful time when I visited in 1979.
Dad also loved animals. When our dog Rosie died, Dad wrapped him in his flight jacket and buried him in the back yard. We had another dachshund, Max that had severe back problems at a relatively early age. The vet recommended putting Max down but Dad asked if there was any hope that Max would regain the use of his back legs. The vet said yes but that it would require daily muscle massage for months, with no guarantee of success. Six months later Max was walking and never suffered from that severe aliment again. Max was followed by Shadow and Spike. Dad also took us to tide pools and kept a saltwater aquarium which was fascinating. He even brought home an injured Kingfisher bird and I remember him releasing it at Puddingstone Lake after it recovered.
You can see why all of Dad's family loved him so dearly and knew he could do virtually anything he put his mind to. In the end he was even avoiding pain medication so he could maintain consciousness just a bit longer.
As our Dad took his last breaths, he was at home, holding the hand of his beloved wife of almost 60 years. He was my hero and that of my brother Mark, our wives, Paula and Maureen, and Mark and Maureen's children: Bethany (and her husband Jesse), Jonathan, Kathryn and Laura. We'll always miss this great man, and we are so thankful that he was our Dad and Papa.
Submitted by Todd Mueller, son of Charles Mueller