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Industry Icon Harold Mueller Passes Away
Harold J. Mueller, 82, of Mueller Company and MRM Technical Group, passed away Feb. 16, in Tampa, FL.
Mueller was born March 13, 1926, in Milwaukee, WI, the son of Alex and Kilda Mueller, He married Beatrice Lepsch in 1947 while serving as a sergeant in the army. After his service, he finished his education at Marquette University. Upon graduating in 1947, Harold and Bea moved to La Crosse, WI, to raise a family and begin his chosen career as a high school teacher.
In 1956 they moved back to Milwaukee where Mueller joined his father in the underground utility construction industry. The company was renamed Mueller Company in 1960 when Harold’s brother, Bob, joined them. Over time, Mueller Company evolved into the MRM Technical Group, the largest distribution pipeline construction company in the United States. At its peak, the company employed nearly 3,000 people in over 30 states, three countries and two continents. Mueller believed anyone could accomplish great things if they were challenged, respected and provided the right tools and direction.
The company was among the first in the industry to recognize that investing in its people was both a good business practice and a moral responsibility. Mueller’s philosophy was to invest in training and promote from within. Along those lines, his company was the first in the industry to sponsor its own welding school. In 1989, the company started a management academy at Marquette University in Milwaukee. This three-week program was designed to help people discover their real abilities and become confident and successful in their daily lives. In 1998, the school was expanded to add a graduate academy in England for those who showed both dedication and a desire for continued self-improvement.
Mueller ensured that the management of the company recognized its moral responsibility for the man in the trenches. In his opinion the company existed for the benefit of the workers and not the benefit of the owners. This was recognized in 1999 when the company was sold. Employees and members of the employee stock program shared in over $50,000,000 of the proceeds from the sale.
In addition to guiding MRM, Mueller helped mentor many former employees as they embarked upon careers outside of the company. Many ascended into management positions with competitors and some successfully started and grew their own businesses.