William J. “Bill” Mueller, Lombard’s village president, died Saturday of complications from West Nile Virus, leaving a vacuum in the post he’d held in the west suburban town for nearly two decades.
Mueller, 76, previously had been diagnosed with blood cancer, weakening his immune system. After contracting the West Nile virus, the town’s longest-serving village president had been hospitalized at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital since Aug. 5.
Village trustee Greg Gron has been serving as president pro tem during Mueller’s illness.
Family and friends in the village of about 43,000 residents described Mueller as a career public servant who was unfailingly generous and passionate, especially about matters concerning the town affectionately known as “Lilac Village” for its abundance of sweet-smelling flowers.
“I don’t think that there will ever be anyone who loved Lombard more than my father,” said Donna Fruehe, one of Mueller’s daughters. “He was always an individual who was doing things for someone else. There was never an issue too little or too small for him to get involved in.”
Mueller first became president of Lombard in 1993, and began his fifth consecutive term in May 2009.
A lifelong resident of Lombard, Mueller’s presidency was the culmination of a political and civic career that spanned five decades, village officials said.
He started in the late 1950s as a member of the village’s safety committee and youth commission. He went on to serve on the village board of trustees, and as chairman of both the village public works committee and the DuPage Community Development Commission.
Mueller also presided over the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and served in the Illinois National Guard.
He left his mark on Lombard in many ways, friends and family said.
Among his greater achievements was to oversee the re-emergence of the decades-old Yorktown Center, on the town’s southern edge, as a bustling retail hub, complete with a brand-new Westin Hotel.
In what little spare time he had, Fruehe said, Mueller loved vacationing at Abbey Springs near Lake Geneva, Wis.
He also loved attending the summertime tradition of “Cruise Nights,” where people flock to the downtown area each Saturday to display their cherry classic cars.
At his 19th and final State of the Village address in February — delivered at the Yorktown Westin Hotel — Mueller told the audience of his hopes to see continued growth in the village.
“Today we have the opportunity and responsibility to continue to take a bold step toward a better future for our residents and business community,” he said. “We can be proud of our accomplishments but there is still much to be done."
“Remember, every day is a gift,” he emphasized. “Take time to enjoy it.”
In addition to Fruehe (Mark), Mueller is survived by his wife of 52 years, Eileen, another daughter Debbie Rapata (Keith), and four grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.