Patriotic Florida retiree Bill Mueller displays Marine statue in yard

12:15 PM, Feb 23, 2014   |    comments
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Bill Mueller, a U.S. Marine who served from 1961-1964, pays tribute to the men and women of all military branches with his life-size statue in Melbourne. Photo courtesy Tim Shortt, Florida Today



By Rick Neale, Florida Today

MELBOURNE, FL (Florida Today) -- A life-sized replica of a white-gloved Marine wearing dress blues stands at perpetual attention in Bill Mueller's front yard, flanked by a pair of fawn-colored boxers.

The 71-year-old installed the statue - plus a new 16-foot flagpole to fly the Stars and Stripes - last month to honor U.S. troops fighting overseas. Motorists in the Indianhead subdivision have noticed, pulling over to stare and take photos.

"Every time I heard about guys getting killed or maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq, it just kind of tears you up a little bit. And I just wanted to do something to do a dedication to the soldiers," said Mueller who served in the Marines from 1961-64.

" 'Awesome' is the word I hear the most. People are stopping by all the time taking pictures, and they come to the door and ask me if they can take pictures. I say, 'Help yourself. Take all the pictures you want,' " he said.

Mueller lives at 759 Osage Ave., a quiet residential street southwest of Sarno and Croton roads. The retired lumberyard manager and his wife, Marie, are former snowbirds who moved to Melbourne permanently after selling their Wingdale, N.Y., house in November.

In December, they cut down an aging 50-foot oak tree in the front yard because Marie feared it might fall onto their house. That stump now serves as a statue pedestal, and it bears a blue plaque: "Dedicated to the men and women of all branches of service who gave their lives or limbs serving our country."

Mueller bought the 6-foot resin Marine statue online for about $1,300, including shipping costs. He also handcrafted two spruce dogs and painted them to resemble Friskie, the couple's 7-year-old black-masked fawn female boxer.

A circular stone wall, two truckloads of mulch and a solar-powered spotlight complete the display. Mueller hopes to add a box containing Wounded Warrior Project brochures, spurring statue spectators to donate.

"I think we need to show respect to the people that died or have been seriously injured in all the wars," he said.

Mueller said he bought a U.S. flag about two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It's been flying 24 hours a day ever since. I've gone through about a dozen flags already," he said.

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