Kathryn Jane Mueller traveled the globe, especially by sea, was fond of showing her award-winning horses, cheered for the St. Louis Cardinals and University of Illinois teams and was a Decatur supporter.
The great-granddaughter of Hieronymus Mueller, founder of Mueller Co., died June 6 in her home. As she wished, there was no public announcement, no funeral.
She was the daughter of William Everett Mueller, the last Mueller to serve as company president. He died in 1947. Mueller Co. was founded in 1857 and is the market leader in the manufacture of water and gas valves, fittings and fire hydrants.
Born in 1941, Jane's legacy is the Hieronymus Mueller Museum, 420 W. Eldorado St., a collection of artifacts, prints, biographical sketches and exhibits from the Mueller Co.
The museum started in the Scovill Zoo Educational Building in 1995 and moved to a newly constructed building in 2005.
Jane credited Gregory Ward and his mother, Connie, with providing the spark for the museum. Gregory Ward won two blue ribbons in Illinois Natural History Day competition in 1990 with a Mueller Co. history exhibit. "The family had thought about a museum for a long time. The Wards got us going," Jane said.
She and Vi Staley assembled Mueller artifacts destined to be cast off by the new owners when the company was sold in 1986. The museum is a private, nonprofit enterprise of the Mueller Family Foundation, which Jane headed. The museum will continue, said Mike Deatherage, the director.
The museum was one of the loves in Jane's life, along with horses, travel and sports. She started riding at age 8 and progressed to competitive riding as a teenager. The interest evolved into a business, buying, breeding and showing horses. The American Saddlebred was her favorite horse. She also developed an interest in hackney ponies. She collected a roomful of trophies and was a national horse figure.
Her interest in travel led to operating a travel agency and then becoming a travel excursion director for a number of cruise lines. This allowed her to guide shore tour groups and meet celebrities, educators and adventurers around the world. She made annual trips to England, enjoying the country life.
In sports, a prized possession was an autographed photo of the St. Louis Cardinals' Stan Musial. She was a booster and ticket holder for University of Illinois games and would schedule time at her Arizona winter home to allow attendance at important games.
A tribute exhibit on Jane Mueller's life is being prepared for viewing at the museum.