Caralee Mueller succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease on May 3, 2022. She died peacefully at the Springs of Missoula memory care unit attended by family.
Family, friends, and music were central to her life and she gave of herself generously to all three.
Caralee was born in Freeport, Illinois on June 8, 1942. She grew up on a dairy farm outside of Stockton, Illinois and raised pigs as 4-H projects. She began playing piano as a youngster. By high school, she was her country church organist and pianist. She graduated from Carthage Collage with a bachelor degree in musical education and began teaching elementary music in a Chicago suburb. In 1969, Caralee married Charles Rohde. They visited Montana on their honeymoon and decided to stay, settling in Missoula. The couple had two sons, Josh in1973, and Andy in 1975. Caralee and Charles were divorced in 1993.
In 1989, Caralee’s stepson, Gregory Houlihan, lost his wife to cancer shortly after the birth of their daughter, Molly. Caralee cared for Molly for months at a time over a two year period in both Kansas City and Missoula while Greg finished his medical residency.
Caralee’s family expanded in 2000 when she married Gerald Mueller. In addition to Josh, Andy, Greg and their wives and children, she welcomed Gerald’s stepson and stepdaughter, Tim and Kate Mitchell, and Gerald’s son and daughter, Jeromy and Kendra Hall, into her life.
Once in Missoula, Caralee taught piano and played organ/piano at funerals, accompanying Neal Dahlstrom and Alfredo Cipolato. She joined the Missoula Symphony Chorale and sang alto for over thirty years. She sang in choirs that performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Opera House in Sidney, Australia, in an international choral festival in Innsbruck, Austria, and at venues in Missoula’s two sister cities, Neckargemünd, Germany and Palmerston North, New Zealand.
From 1990 until 1999, Caralee served in the leadership of the Missoula Symphony Association, first as Manager on a two person staff and then as Executive Director. In this role, she helped organize and staff the early Missoula International Choral Festivals.
Caralee also sang Renascence music for over a decade in Cantanti Missoula, a small a cappella ensemble started by her friends Alayne Dolson and Archie McMillan,
Caralee was active in Missoula community theater. Beginning in the 1985-86 season with Brigadoon, she played piano for rehearsals and in the pit for dozens of MCT community, children, and camp shows over almost a thirty year period.
In 1999, Caralee assisted her friend Jean Bowman, the Executive Director of the St. Patrick Hospital Foundation, in opening St. Patrick House, and served as its first house manager. St. Patrick House provides out-of-area patients who cannot afford shelter or necessities while in town, an inexpensive place to stay for an extended period while undergoing treatment.
Caralee loved to cook and hosted UM Homecoming brunches and peach french toast breakfasts for family and friends.
Caralee was pre-deceased by her parents, Merle and Violet Blair, and her brother Gene. She is survived by her husband Gerald; her son Josh and his wife (Joanna) and children (Jonah, Kellan, and Gavin) and their stepchildren (Kelsey, Lily, Gabrielle, and Jack); her son Andy his wife (Sarah) and their children (Camille, Olin, and Huck); her stepson Greg Houlihan and his children (Molly and Kate); Gerald’s stepson Tim Mitchell and his wife (Tracy) and children (Teagan and Fergus); Gerald’s stepdaughter Kate Szadziewska and her husband (Henry); and Gerald’s son Jeromy and his wife (Pam) and children (John, Emily, Olivia, and Grace); and Gerald’s daughter Kendra.
The family sincerely thanks both the staff of the Springs of Missoula Footless Memory Care for their professional, compassionate, and loving care of Caralee for her last ten months and Hospice of Missoula for easing her transition.
Those wishing to do so are encouraged to honor Caralee by making a donation to the Missoula Symphony Association, MCT, Hospice of Missoula, or the Providence Montana Health Foundation.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 7, 2022 at Garden City Funeral Home. A graveside service will follow at the Missoula City Cemetery.