Local singer Wally Mueller bid farewell to his fans during a New Year’s Eve concert at Living Oaks.
It was a tearful goodbye for Mueller, who has been performing in the area for over 25 years.
His final concert included 30 old-time favorites. His repertoire included hits such as “Ring of Fire,” “For the Good Times,” “Return to Me,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “I Fall to Pieces” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
Mueller’s performance was enhanced by his wife, Marge, as sound engineer and his grandnieces, Jana and Sara Metko, helping with vocals on a few select songs.
“Wally is really a ‘people person,'” said Sandy Bostwick, a volunteer at Living Oaks.
“He is not your typical entertainer who comes, sets up, entertains, breaks down his equipment and leaves,” she said. “Wally and Marge would stick around afterwards and visit with the tenants of Living Oaks. He got to know them by name. He also remembers who likes what type of music. I know he gave this same attention to the residents of Iola Living Assistance, too. That’s quite a lot of names and music to remember.”
While volunteering about five years as activity director at Living Oaks, Bostwick became well acquainted with Wally and Marge.
She said Mueller entertained at Living Oaks at least once a month, sometimes more.
“He rotated his selections, so every time he performed, it was different. It was nice to know that you weren’t getting the same songs over and over,” Bostwick said. “Each performance was unique.”
According to Greg Loeser, CEO of Iola Living Assistance, Inc., the entertainment at Living Oaks assisted living facility and Iola Living Assistance nursing facility is funded by donations, memorials and designated volunteer hours during the Iola Old Car Show.
“Wally has always been one of the favorites,” Loeser said. “He interacts well with the residents and gets them to participate in some of the songs.”
“Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Waupaca County and other surrounding counties will never be able to fill the void that Wally’s retirement will create,” Bostwick said. “He will be missed.”
“I’m going to miss you folks,” Mueller said as the residents and staff presented cards and a retirement cake to him.
Although it was his final performance, he promised to stop for visits.
“It has been a wonderful ride,” Mueller told his audience. “You have brought a lot of memories and a lot of happiness to me.”
Then he tearfully sang his final song, “The Cowboy Rides Away.” The lyrics included:
“My heart is sinking like the setting sun. The last goodbye’s the hardest one to say.”
Mueller has been entertaining audiences for the past 70 years.
His first performance was in 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 4. He stood on a wrought iron fence in his family’s yard and sang “A Merry American Christmas” to the entire neighborhood.
He served in the Marine Reserves from 1957-58 and in the Navy from 1958-68.
The Muellers moved to Scandinavia in 1968. His various jobs included working five years as a cheesemaker at Weyauwega Milk Products and studying to become a master electrician,
In the early 1980s he began his own business, Wally’s Electric, in Scandinavia. He retired in 2003 and the business continues to be operated by Kenny Lederhaus.
While operating his business, Mueller became known as “the singing electrician,” because he sang while he worked.
“I love to sing,” he said.
About 25 years ago, Mueller began entertaining senior citizens. Since that time, he has been performing at nursing homes, senior centers and living assistance facilities.
Up until a few years ago, the Muellers were doing two to three shows per day and 145 shows per year. In addition to the local area, they traveled to Stevens Point, Appleton, Clintonville, New London and points in between.
“Singing is the easy part,” he said. “The hard part is the traveling and setting up.”
Now that he is almost 75, they decided to give up their traveling show. He will continue to sing in his church choir.
Wally and Marge have been married for 56 years. They have five children and 12 grandchildren.
In retirement, they hope to spend more time with family and do some traveling.
Mueller’s fans may continue to enjoy his music, available on his gospel CD, “Wally Sings for Jesus.” For a copy, call 715-467-2361.