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Robert J. Mueller Sr PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 25 October 2017 15:50

     Robert J. Mueller Sr. was a national barefoot waterskiing champion whose records in the senior men’s division live on, even though he retired from the sport years ago.
    The 81-year-old Fredonia man had enough trophies, plaques, ribbons and awards to cover several walls in the basement of his home, having competed in the sport for more than 20 years.
    “He just loved it,” his wife Carol said.
    Mr. Mueller, who died of cancer at his home Thursday, Oct. 19,  was a water-skier for years before he tried barefoot skiing, prompted by his friend Dowaine Koepp.
    “He had a little boat and said, ‘Let’s try this,’” Mrs. Mueller recounted.
    Mr. Mueller loved it, and he and his friends taught themselves the intricacies of the sport.  
    “It took a long time to learn, because we didn’t have the right equipment or the right boat. We were definitely pioneers in the State of Wisconsin for barefooting,” Mr. Mueller told Ozaukee Press in a 1994 interview.
    Mr. Mueller said he moved to Random Lake in 1993 to be closer to the water, and he could often be seen skiing on the lake with his wife driving the boat and his son spotting. He told the Press that he practiced an average of 80 times a summer.
    He conquered the state competition several times, but then felt he had little left to do, Mr. Mueller said. But after three years off, skiing just for fun, the national competitions began and he started competing again.
    He did well, winning national championships in 1993 and 1994.
    Even if he hadn’t gotten into barefoot skiing, Mr. Mueller said, he would have competed in trick skiing.
    “I’m a competitor,” he told Ozaukee Press. “I compete to win. Barefooting was cool at the time, and it just grew on me.”
    Mr. Mueller was a native of Saukville, born on Sept. 25, 1936, to John and Ruth Vetter Albinger Mueller.
    He married Carol Barwick at St.Mary’s Catholic Church in Port Washington on May 10, 1958.
    The couple settled in Port, but later lived in Saukville and Random Lake before moving to Fredonia.
    He was an electrician at Tecumseh Power Products in Grafton, retiring in the early 1990s.
    Even after he retired from skiing competitions, he continued to water ski into his 70s.
    Then, he took up tennis with his brother-in-law Lee Barwick and Mr. Koepp, and even built a tennis court at his home outside of Saukville.
    “He was an athlete,” his wife said, adding he was also a sports fan who enjoyed watching the Green Bay Packers and other local sports teams.
    Mr. Mueller also enjoyed traveling with his wife throughout the United States and to Europe. He hunted and camped, and immersed himself in his family.
    “He was all about family,” his wife said. “He was the greatest grandfather I’ve ever seen.”
    Mr. Mueller was also known as Mr. Fix It, his wife said.
    “He was there whenever anyone needed something to be fixed,” his wife said. “He was good at figuring things out.”
    Mr. Mueller is survived by his wife Carol of Fredonia; children Patricia Penkwitz of Grafton and Robert J. (Kim) Mueller Jr. of Port Washington; grandchildren Katherine (fiance Jason Canora) Penkwitz, Christopher (fiancee Rachel Staton) Penkwitz, Rob Mueller, Ryan Mueller and Johanna Mueller; and a great-grandson.
    He is further survived by his sisters Doris Smith of Oostburg and Caroline (Edwin) Klaport of Seattle; brothers Fred of Port Washington and Tom (Dina) of San Francisco; sister-in-law Helen Mueller of Cedarburg; and former son-in-law Mark Penkwitz.
    Mr. Mueller was preceded in death by his daughter Christine Ann Mueller, brothers Reggie, Nick, John and Eugene; sisters-in-law Frieda, Mae, Billie, Sharon and Dorothy Mueller; and brother-in-law Jerome Smith.
    A memorial service for Mr. Mueller will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at Eernisse Funeral Home, Port Washington. Father Guy Gurath will officiate.
    Visitation will be at the funeral home from 1 p.m. Saturday until the service.
    Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Port Washington.
    In lieu of flowers, memorials to St. Jude’s Research Hospital or the Shriners Hospital for Children are suggested.

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