Obituary - James Muller


Last updated 10/24/2023 at 11:47am

James Muller

Thursday, October 12, 2023, the world lost a kind, generous, talented man. James "Jim" Muller was born to Hilda G. (Mayer) Muller and Alphonse H. Muller June 4, 1936, in Havre, MT. 

With a 12-year gap between him and his four older siblings, he often commented on practically growing up an only child. He was raised in the Hingham area where Alphonse farmed and did carpentry work. A love of farming and working with wood were in Jim's being from the start. In 1949, he moved with his parents to Missoula, MT. He attended the Catholic school for eighth grade and had more than one story about the nuns' less-than-forgiving ways. After graduating from Missoula County High School in 1954 and attending a quarter at Northern Montana College, Jim returned to the Hi-Line where he worked for various farmers including Art Rambo, Virgil Jurenka, and Kraft and Martin farms. 

In 1962, Jim married Shirley K. Brekke. He spent the next 61 years being an excellent example of what a husband and father should be. As a husband, he was a quiet man who showed his love through his actions more than words. He valued education and made sure all three of his children graduated from college.

After 18 years of farming, Jim was recruited by the board to manage the Hingham Farmers Elevator. In 1972, Jim went from worrying and caring for one farmer's crop to worrying about the extended community's production. In 1981, Montana Merchandising Inc. built the first 52-car grain terminal in Montana east of Rudyard, and Jim was recruited to manage the new facility, leading the way in shipping grain from Montana. It was then the Mullers moved from Hingham to Rudyard.

Jim continued with Columbia Grain when they bought out MMI in 1990. The respect he earned in the grain business led to many years on the Montana Elevator Association's board of directors, including a term as president. In 1998 Jim stepped back from the manager's role to work in the grain lab for two years before finally retiring. He often commented that his success in the grain business and life was because of his trusted partner and wife, Shirley. 

Retirement led to a role shift for Jim, initiating "hey dad" and "hon' I've been thinking" jobs. More than once he commented that at least before retirement he would occasionally get a weekend off. A few years after his stroke, Jim and Shirley moved to the Sweet Grass Lodge in Chester. After three years, they moved to Billings, MT, in November of 2020.

Jim served his community in many roles. He worked as the Hingham school clerk for over 10 years before becoming a school board member. He filled the role of Hingham City Treasurer for over a decade. He served on the Parish Council for Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church. After retirement Jim volunteered for the Rudyard Museum.

Jim's passions in life were many. His children knew mom always came first. They also knew he was there to help them succeed, whatever project they undertook.  His artistry with woodworking was known by many. He was a voracious reader of topics ranging from history to Native American culture to science to current events. His love of books inspired a love of reading in his children. His love of fishing was passed to his grandsons. Hunting gophers with Grandpa was the highlight of a trip to Rudyard.

Although he excelled at many things, being a grandfather was an unparalleled adventure for Jim. His grandsons were his pride and joy. Their love and respect for him was shown when one of the boys said with admiration, "Papa doesn't say much, but you better listen when he does." For those who paid attention, a subtle wit and deep wisdom could be found in this humble man.

Jim is survived by his wife, Shirley (Brekke) Muller; daughter Janet (Jack) Trethewey, grandson Justin and great-grandson Tavin Trethewey; daughter Janice (Darrell Johnson) Muller, grandson Kyle (Marisa Rivera) Kohn and soon to be great-granddaughter Rokki, and grandson Kameron (Chelsea Martello) Kohn; son John (Christine) Muller, granddaughter Ashli (Michael Cruse) Young, great-grandchildren Kalee, Rylee, Brian, Laney and Ethan, granddaughter Ami Johnson, grandson Haden and great-great-grandson Cooper Johnson, and grandson Justin Meltzian; special sister-in-law, Shelly Schnitzmeier, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews, and in-laws.

James was preceded in death by his parents, Hilda and Alphonse Muller, his siblings and their spouses, Viola (Howard) Rambo, Dr. John (Joann) Muller, Eileen (Fred) Buchholz, Clara (Phil) Lipp; nephews Arthur Rambo, Tom Buchholz, Philip Buchholz, niece Carolyn Davies, and in-laws Art and Hazel Brekke.

Jim's ashes will be buried with those of his faithful fishing partner Hunter.

The family wishes to thank the fabulous staff and friends at Autumn Springs Assisted Living and Billings Stillwater Hospice for the incredible care provided to Jim on his final journey.

Cremation has taken place. Services will be held at Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church in Hingham on October 27th at 2:00 p.m. with luncheon to follow. Internment of ashes will be at a later date.

Memorials are suggested to the Hi-Line Ambulance Service, Liberty County Health Foundation, American Stroke Association, or Stillwater Hospice of Billings. For those wishing to send flowers, please have them delivered to McNair Furniture in Rudyard.


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