CCJHS says farewell to John Mueller, 13
The students of Corydon Central Junior High School were without their leader when they assembled Thursday morning. The grandfather of Student Council President John Mueller speculated he was sitting at the right hand of his hero, Dale Earnhardt, telling him how to drive.
Mueller died Nov. 13 at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, presumably of complications related to muscular dystrophy. He was 13.
Earlier this semester, the tiny, wheelchair-bound, junior-high student, John Mueller, provided some reassurance for his nervous principal while sitting in the green room before a television appearance: ‘Just follow along with me, and you’ll be just fine,’ Mueller said and Principal Mark Eastridge recalled as he opened a presentation remembering Mueller.
‘We did follow along with John, and it was just fine,’ Eastridge said.
Reflecting on her time at the funeral home, Mueller’s mother, Jenny, said that her son thought he didn’t have many friends.
‘This was probably one of the few times in his life he was wrong,’ she said, looking out over an auditorium where her glance was returned by dozens of teary eyes and unwavering, solemn attention. She was accompanied by her fiance, Jeff Bube. John’s father, Bill Mueller Jr., of Corydon, and his family, sat nearby.
Music by Corydon Central High School assistant principal and pianist Gary Pope was replaced by Lynard Skynard’s ‘Free Bird’ as Mueller addressed his classmates one last time through a video produced by multimedia teacher Angela Begle.
As an anchor, Mueller had entered classrooms throughout CCJHS during a short, morning news program. The video montage was his final broadcast.
‘We are hoping this memorial service gave the kids some closure,’ school counselor Debbie Evans said later. It was one of several efforts organized by the school in response to Mueller’s unexpected death.
CCJHS staff were notified by phone the same day. Eastridge and Evans came to school on Sunday, Nov. 14, and followed the South Harrison Community School Corp. crisis plan for the death of a student as well as making some improvisations of their own.
Seven counselors from throughout South Harrison came to CCJHS that Monday to be available for the 365 students. Statements were given to all the teachers and read to their classes. The message was simple. John Mueller had died, these are the funeral arrangements, and help is in the gym for those who need it.
During the service, The Rev. Louis Manna of St. Joseph Tri-Parish described ‘a feeling of loss and emptiness because all of a sudden there is a person who was a part of our lives, and he’s just not there anymore.’
Students going to the gymnasium that Monday found art supplies and rapidly filled ‘a memorial wall’ with cards, poems and works of art stretching the length of the gym. Days later, Mueller’s mother was still sorting through them, moved by the words of her son’s classmates.
Evans said the credit for helping the students cope went to the entire staff.
‘I’m sure it had to be especially hard because I know a lot of the teachers who had John were grieving at the same time,’ she said.
Mueller was a small guy with a big spirit.
During another TV appearance, this one on Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Telethon, Louisville weatherman John Belski asked if Mueller would sing a little karaoke. Mueller didn’t hesitate. He chose the chorus of one of his favorites, ‘Little Bitty’ by Alan Jackson.
‘It’s all right to be little bitty, a little hometown or a big old city. Might as well share, might as well smile. Life goes on for a little bitty while.’