Perdita Mueller, known to her friends as "Pete," passed away peacefully at home in Salinas on October 4, 2012 at 93. She will be remembered for her strength of character and love of beauty, family and friends. Friends and caregivers praised her thoughtfulness to others even in the face of her difficult last months.
The daughter of Irma and Paul Peters, a journalist, Perdita was born on March 29, 1919 in St. Louis. She weighed only 3.5 lbs. at birth and fit into a cigar box, according to her father, but grew into a young woman who excelled in school, loved sports, and became an avid reader. Although she was the valedictorian of her eighth grade class, she quit school at 13 to help support her family during the depression. What she lacked in formal education, she made up for by reading voraciously and paying close attention to news, politics, and world events throughout her life.
In her late teens, Perdita found a job and eventually her life's partner at Dohack's, a legendary St. Louis barbeque joint. Elm, the oldest brother of Perdita's co-worker and friend, Virginia Mueller, caught Perdita's eye, and she was soon included in Mueller family picnics, hikes and gatherings. Elm courted Perdita with moonlight canoe rides and Sunday horseback rides in the park, and they fell in love, the beginning of a relationship that lasted 68 years, until Elm's death two years ago. Their enduring marriage was celebrated in a Salinas Californian feature story, "Love That Lasts," in 2002.
Following Pearl Harbor, Elm enlisted in the army and they were married within a few weeks, in late January 1942. When Elm was transferred to Florida, Perdita worked in the ship building effort, like many women on the home front. She and Elm developed lifelong friendships with other army couples and became part of the "The Greatest Generation." When Elm was transferred to Monterey, they rented a house in Carmel a few blocks from the beach and vowed to return to the spectacular beauty of Monterey County after the war.
After the war, when Elm returned from Europe, Perdita was reunited with him in Washington, D.C, holding their first child Dan who had been born while Elm was overseas. They moved to California, settling in Salinas in 1945 where Elm worked for Pacific Bell. Daughters Lynn and Christine were born and Perdita enjoyed the role of mother, wife, and homemaker, becoming an outstanding cook, talented seamstress and gardener, and a beloved, helpful neighbor.
Throughout her life Perdita instilled her love of beauty and nature in her children. A sportswoman who enjoyed swimming and golf, picnics and camping, she encouraged her children to participate in the outdoor life from an early age. She was an avid Giants and 49er fan and enjoyed watching professional sports.
Perdita lived a full life, enriched by the blessings of a devoted husband and loving children. She had wonderful and generous friends, many of whom she outlived.
She remained active and retained her sharp intellect until the very end of her life.
She is survived by her children Dan, Lynn and Chris, daughter-in-law Dimity Mueller, son-in-law Toby Kahn, and three grandchildren Molly Mueller, Paul Mueller and Lucien Kahn and will be deeply missed.
Perdita's life will be celebrated by friends and family at a memorial gathering on December 8 at 2:00 p.m. in Salinas. Please contact Lynn Mueller, 510-524-2319, for details.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice, 45 Plaza Circle, Salinas, CA 93901.
Arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home
for more information www.struveandlaporte.com