Richard Paul “Dick” Mueller, founder and former president of Mueller Associates, a Baltimore-area engineering firm that’s worked on some of the area’s iconic institutions, died of complications of an infection Sept. 17 at a hospital near his home in Pompano Beach, Florida. He was 92.
The son of Anna nee Rauh, a secretary for Seaboard Steel, and Harry C. Mueller Sr., who died when Mueller was a young boy, Mueller was born in Baltimore in 1929.
He and his late brother, Harry C. Mueller Jr., grew up modestly and were a handful for their mother, said his son, Paul Mueller, 59, of Sykesville. Mueller learned to appreciate the sacrifices his mother made for them and her emphasis on the importance of higher education.
Mueller graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1949 after taking leave to serve in the U.S. Army from 1946 to 1948 during its occupation of Korea, according to a family obituary. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled in the engineering program at the Johns Hopkins University, completing his freshman year before entering the field in 1950.
That’s around the time he met his first of three wives, Marilyn Rohrs, with whom he raised six children in Catonsville. After about 30 years, the marriage ended in divorce, Paul Mueller said.
He graduated from Hopkins in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, having taken classes at night while working and raising a family, according to the family obituary.
Colleagues at Mueller Associates, called Engineering Services Company before Mueller purchased the firm around 1967, said Mueller implored aspiring engineers to get their degrees.
“He said to me, ‘You’re not going to get anywhere in this business, including here, unless you get your degree and become a registered professional,” said Gene Nerf, 78, who met Mueller at 19 years old and went on to lead the company. “He held true on that.”
As a father, Paul Mueller said, he was present but occupied with work, school and providing for the family. He managed to take them to Sunday school every week and on vacation every year.
“He wasn’t taking me to baseball practice twice a week or anything like that,” Paul Mueller said. “He was an incredible role model to me. I looked up to him. He provided very nicely for our family. We always had what we needed.”
At work, he embraced innovation and emerging technologies, according to a statement from Mueller Associates announcing his death. Mueller had a good eye for talent, put clients first and helped the company establish long-term relationships with institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and Northrop Grumman.
Nerf said Mueller preferred high-profile jobs like museums or cutting-edge academic facilities rather than cookie-cutter shopping centers or housing developments. He led projects at The Lyric theater in Baltimore, as well as the Washington National Cathedral and North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie, which is now the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
“If you’re working in a museum, lab or performing arts center, the engineering challenges are bigger — you could be more innovative,” Nerf said. “He liked that kind of challenge.”
Mueller recruited Bob Marino, current president and CEO of Mueller Associates, right out of Pennsylvania State University. At the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering firm, Marino said, Mueller was ahead of the curve in terms of using “cutting-edge technology” and energy-efficient mechanisms. He said Mueller put solar panels on the White House.
Under Mueller’s leadership, the company transformed from a four-person, one-room operation to a bustling business. Other projects included the University of Baltimore’s Angelos Law Center, The Baltimore Sun’s former printing press facility on North Calvert Street, the Maryland Historical Society and a major renovation for Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, according to Marino and Nerf.
“The way he just approached problems and tackled challenges,” Marino said. “He always wanted to be at the forefront of innovation.”
Having worked with two engineering firms and the State of Maryland before Mueller Associates, he retired in 1994, but stayed involved with the company. Marino said his portrait hangs in the business’ Linthicum lobby and his principles still guide the firm.
Mueller liked wowing clients over meals, where you could count on him to order one of his beloved Manhattans, Paul Mueller and Nerf said.
Outside work, Mueller relished religion and swam competitively.
He was an active member at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Baltimore, for 46 years, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Ocean City, for 15 years, and Bethany Lutheran Church, Salisbury, for eight years, according to his family. Paul Mueller said his father regularly used his engineering skills to help the churches.
Having swum for Poly in high school, he later joined swim teams at the Meadowbrook Swim Club and swam with the Maryland Masters and the “Senior Sharks” in Ocean Pines.
“He was an avid swimmer right up until close to his end of days,” Paul Mueller said, adding his father would sometimes mention when he came home with a medal. “He was a competitive person.”
His second wife was Margaret Etzler, of Bishopville, with whom he had two more children. Their marriage and Mueller’s third ended in divorce.
Even with eight children, he found a way to keep in touch, Paul Mueller said. “He was always available and I think he spoke with all of us on a regular basis and he was always willing to give thoughtful guidance on any subject to the extent that he could.”
Paul Mueller said you could always find his father, a skilled craftsman, fixing things around the house. In fact, he built his home in Bishopville. He lived there in the 1990s.
After spending winters in Florida for a decade with his fiancee Nancy Hanna, of Wilmington, Delaware, the couple moved to Pompano Beach permanently in 2017. He frequented the local American Legion and enjoyed meals at the oceanfront restaurant Sea Watch, according to the family.
He kept tabs on his former firm until his death. His legacy in engineering persists.
“I loved the guy,” Nerf said. “I think he really contributed to the engineering profession. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work beside him and be his partner.”
He is survived by seven of his eight children: Paul Mueller, Richard Paul Mueller Jr. of Madison, New Hampshire, LeeAnn Morin of Catonsville, David Mueller of Roanoke, Virginia, Carol Garvey of Christiansburg, Virginia, John Mueller of Olympia, Washington, and Peter Mueller of Bishopville.
Also surviving him are his three ex-wives, his fiancee and companion of 15 years, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his older brother, Harry C. Mueller Sr., his daughter Maria Mueller, and his grandson, Brian Garvey.
A viewing was held Sunday at the Sterling-Ashton-Schwab-Witzke Funeral Home in Catonsville. There will be a memorial service at Emmanuel Lutheran Church at 929 Ingleside Ave. in Catonsville on Monday at 11 a.m. followed by interment at Lorraine Park Cemetery in Woodlawn.