Resident Spotlight: Paula Mueller’s Birthday Surprise

Longtime Bell Trace resident Paula Mueller received a big surprise on her birthday this year. Not only did she get to celebrate a major milestone — turning 108 years old — but staff members threw her a party complete with cake, balloons and the happy birthday song.

Best of all, Paula’s family graced her with their socially distanced presence. Her son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and three great grandchildren greeted her outside her window. Bell Trace was thrilled to coordinate the visit and celebration.

“Paula has lived here since 2001, so we wanted to do something special for her,” said Director of Community Engagement Kelsey Haislip. “Because of the visitation restrictions due to COVID-19, we want to make the best of this tough time and make sure our residents are still feeling loved.”

Paula certainly seemed to feel the love, as a bright smile spread across her face when a staff member asked her to share the secret to living a long life.

“Be happy,” Paula said, safely surrounded by her caregivers and loved ones.

Paula’s long, happy life started in White Lake, South Dakota — a small city that still has a population of less than 400. She grew up alongside five sisters and a brother. Her father was a Lutheran pastor who preached at neighboring churches and even learned sign language to communicate with deaf churchgoers.

When she was a teenager, Paula’s family moved to Milwaukee, where she attended high school and college. She went on to teach primary grades at a Lutheran school. At a Lutheran summer camp in northern Wisconsin, Paula met Emil, the love of her life. They married and moved to Chicago, where Emil served as a lawyer for the Chicago and North Western Railroad. They raised three boys in the Chicago suburb of Lombard.

After Emil left the railroad field, he and Paula moved back to South Dakota, where he served as assistant to the state’s Attorney General. A few years later, they retired to the San Francisco Bay Area, where two of their sons live. When Emil passed away, Paula moved to Bloomington, Indiana, to be near another one of their sons.

Paula loves living in the Midwest, seeing colorful leaves give way to lightning-white snow and watching April showers bring May flowers. She faces the seasons of her life with just as much joy.

Paula’s loved ones and second family at Bell Trace were happy to celebrate another year of her happy life.