Joseph Erick Mueller
August 23, 1963 – April 24, 2022
Joseph Erick Mueller aka “Joe Cool” died peacefully on Sunday, April 24th, 2022 surrounded by family and friends. For those reading this, you know Joe wouldn’t want a “traditional” story of his impact on all of us and the world. So in his honor, let’s share his life in a different way.
To begin with I’m writing this story about Joe while enjoying a Mueller Genuine Draft beer (MGD) for inspiration. Joe and his buddy Timmy have been solely responsible for keeping this brew in business. With my brain properly relaxed let’s jump in.
Joe loved his family. And was so proud to come from a family of 12 kids. Yes, that’s not a typo--he had 11 siblings growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was the engineer and handyman of the family. At around five years old, he disassembled the family rotary phone into dozens of pieces. The only one in the house. Remember – there are many people in this household who need to use this phone! But not to worry, Joe reassembled the phone and it worked better than ever. This natural tinkering talent led Joe to earn his Engineering and Information Technology degree from Eastern Michigan University and have a successful career in IT.
He was also the family mechanic. He worked nights and weekends to keep the Mueller clan on the road with cool bicycles. He assembled the bikes from various parts he would find while browsing the trash dumpsters in the neighborhood. One person’s trash is another’s treasure! He was busiest when the Mueller clan would go dirt biking in a neighbor’s field doing jumps and racing each other. One time he had three “customers” at once who had destroyed their bikes. No worries, Joe jerry-rigged them back into operation. He then graduated from bikes to cars and bought his first vehicle, a Ford Pinto. Although he treated it like a Ferrari, flooring the accelerator all over town. And since he was so handy with cars, he was the unofficial Mueller mechanic for pretty much the rest of his life. He was always so generous in helping family and friends with anything mechanical or technical or just flat out puzzling. And he never hesitated – he always jumped in to help, no matter what.
Joe loved his friends. He lived by the motto “My family are my friends and my friends are my family.”
He loved fun adventures! He started the Mueller High Life (MGD wasn’t a ‘thing’ back then) softball team in college made up of many of the Mueller kids and some close friends from the Micro-Computer Lab at Washtenaw Community College. We actually won a couple of championships! In 1994, he joined brother Erick and his girlfriend Carrie on an around-the-country adventure, exploring 37 states in a Ford Aerostar with a Lazy Boy in the back.
In 1995, Joe moved from Ann Arbor to San Diego for a bit to hang with sister Michelle and her husband Mike. Then he joined brother Erick in Colorado in August of 1995 where he joined additional softball leagues and met his best bud Timmy. This started another of his grand adventures – concerts! He rocked out to over 1,000 concerts with Timmy and friends, many times tailgating in the hooptie (a 1992 RV with hundreds of stickers). And he was even a roadie for a while, following ZZ-Top around the west coast for a couple of weeks. He took one of his “mini-retirements” (he had 3 mini-retirements along the way!) in 2008 and traveled around Europe for 3 months. And had many Harley adventures with brother Erick and friends to Sturgis, Milwaukee, San Diego and his favorite wander in Southwest Colorado. Joe was always up for an adventure. And without hesitation or pondering – just a simple “I’m in!”
Joe loved being a cool uncle. He had such a thoughtful tradition where he would send a Winnie-the-Pooh character stuffed animal to each new kiddo welcomed into the world. And this was for all of his friends and family. And he made the time to reach out to all of his nieces and nephews and truly cared to learn how they were doing. He attended as many birthdays, graduations, holidays and special events as he possibly could. He was there supporting his nieces and nephews at every step and created many joyful memories.
He also adored his furry kids. For his 40th birthday, he was gifted Maxine, an English Black Lab. Joe had always wanted a puppy of his own and Maxine was a beautiful soul. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 4 but Joe and Erick researched treatments and alternative options and Max adventured until the age of 13. She was his miracle baby. She summited many mountains, road-tripped to 27 states and 2 countries and provided many joyful moments alongside her best bud Pula. Joe was always so proud to provide such a fun and adventurous life for his Maxine.
Joe loved his final chapter in life--the Joe Cool Farewell Tour. Aligning with his love of concerts, he wanted to celebrate life and appreciate how fortunate he was and invited folks to be a part of his Tour. We created a WhatsApp group that shared all the highs and lows of his journey from being diagnosed with ALS in November of 2020 followed by 18 months of the Farewell tour with friends, family and loved ones. The Tour included adventures in Hooptie II (a newer 2003 RV), rock concerts in his backyard, Geoffry (nephew) and Katie’s wedding in Wisconsin; Salt Lake City for Thanksgiving, Friday night steak dinners and others. But perhaps the most amazing part of the Farewell Tour was Joe Cool holding court. Countless people visited to just hang with Joe and connect. Reminiscing about fun memories, discussing life’s big questions and just enjoying the evening being friends. There were hundreds of such visits in-person and via ZOOM and phone. Joe was so giving and generous and thoughtful with all of us. Always asking what we needed and if we had questions. Amazing. And beautiful.
Joe is survived by step-mom Charlene (Ann Arbor, MI), sisters Michelle (San Diego, CA), Debby (Salt Lake City, UT), Kathy (Bishop, CA), Kim (Ann Arbor, MI) and Maura (Bend, OR) as well as brothers Mike (Ann Arbor, MI), Dave (Pinckney, MI), Neil (Bishop, GA), Erick (Lafayette, CO) and James (Jenison, MI). And pups Khaya and Auggie (his namesake). He is predeceased by mother Maura (1992), father Neil (2016), brother Brian (2017) and pup Maxine (2016).
There will be a Celebration of Life (aka VIP Backstage Party) at Timmy’s on May 21st. Interment of ashes will take place at the Mueller family plot in Ann Arbor in the summer of 2023.
Joe was an amazing son, brother, friend, uncle, colleague, rocker and overall cool dude. He will be missed desperately. And he’ll be in our hearts every time we enjoy an MGD, rock out at a concert, go on an adventure and spend time with friends and family. As he shared with so many along his Farewell Tour, “I had a wonderful life and have no regrets”. What a model for all of us. Signing off, in true Joe Cool fashion, Yeah Buddy!
In lieu of flowers and other contributions, donations can be accepted for the Uncle Joe Cool Nieces & Nephews Fund https://gofund.me/7724603d