left, and Mike Mueller are pictured in front of
photos of their family.
Photo by Laurie Arendt
CEDARBURG — Sometimes the sustainability of a family
business really comes down to whether or not it was
simply meant to be. Such is the case with Mueller
Funeral Home, which is celebrating 90 years in business
grandfather, Ernst, was actually introduced to the
business by working for an upholster in Grafton,” said
Scott Mueller, who now co-owns the business with his
brother, Mike. “The gentleman was also an undertaker,
and those two occupations sometimes went hand in hand
Ernst went to undertaker school, earned his license and
eventually purchased the business, which was located
just past the corner of what is now Highway 60 and 12th
Avenue. He renamed it Mueller Funeral home in 1927 and
it was the only funeral home in Grafton.
time went on, the business grew and Ernst brought in his
sons, Harold “Teno” and Warren. But the transition into
a second generation wasn’t exactly a sure thing.
be honest, I think Dad wanted to be a basketball coach –
he went to Valparasio before he came back and started
working with our grandpa,” said Scott.
business grew and Mueller Funeral Home opened a new
second location in Cedarburg in 1955.
“This is actually where we grew up,” Mike Mueller said
of the Hanover street location. “I actually used to ride
my bike in the funeral home during the winter. It was
just the family business to us and we lived right here.”
The Grafton Mueller
Funeral Home was the second location for the
Photo by Mark Justesen
the two brothers finished high school, neither had an
interest in joining the family business, at least not
initially. Mike Mueller tried a year of college; his
brother pursued other things.
night, I stopped over and my dad was having a cocktail,”
he said. “He asked me if I’d ever given it any thought,
you know, to joining the business?”
was a good question.
“Ultimately, I think it was God’s calling,” admitted
Scott Mueller, who joined his dad and uncle in the
business shortly thereafter.
Mueller followed his older brother a few years later.
that point, my dad was still involved in the business,
but it really was more like he was around and as we
became more comfortable with it, the two of us would
occasionally ask each other, ‘Should we call Dad?’” And
then eventually, Dad said to us, ‘Just don’t call me
anymore,’” added Scott. “And he basically retired at
During their time in the business, the brothers have
experienced quite an evolution.
many years, people thought Dad was in charge of the
Cedarburg business and Warren was in charge of Grafton,
as if they were almost separate businesses,” said Scott
Mueller. “But it really was one business, and that’s the
way it is now: you see us at both places.”
Shortly after taking over, Scott Mueller, with the help
of his wife, Mary, added an additional service for the
families they serve: grief programming.
“After everything is said and done – the family is gone,
the bills are paid – I thought it was important for us
to stay in touch with the people we served,” he said.
“That’s such a tough time for people after losing a
Scott had been sending out a series of books that
addressed grief, and then Mary started handdelivering
them and calling on the customers. Over time, it evolved
into a holiday remembrance service and then a support
group, which continues to be active and has resulted in
a few new relationships.
other big change they’ve noted is cremation, and Mueller
Funeral Home actually added its own crematory to Grafton
in 2010 instead of relying on other mortuary providers
for this service.
“People are comforted by the fact that their loved one
never leaves our care,” Mike Mueller said.
“When I started in 1985, we probably had one cremation a
year,” said Scott Mueller. “And it was very different –
people who did cremation didn’t want anything else, no
service or memorial. It’s really come full circle.”
they estimate that about 55 percent of their calls
request cremation, for a variety of reasons: it’s more
religiously acceptable, people believe it is less
expensive and it can be part of a traditional service.
all people need or want everything, but a funeral is
really for the living,” Mike Mueller said. “I think we
do a really good job in serving our customers, from the
very first phone call to meeting the individual family
needs through the process.”
Business has doubled since the third generation took
over and both Scott and Mike believe their grandfather
would be quite happy to see his business thriving into
its ninth decade.
“It’s nice that our dad and uncle are able to see the
business grow and continued, and I know Grandpa would be
extremely pleased,” said Scott. “We are so thankful that
we can continue to serve the many families in Ozaukee
and Washington County.”