Stephen R. Mueller was born in Germany in 1991. His life began with a week spent in an incubator at the children’s hospital. From his earliest moments, Stephen was active and curious- always exploring and getting into things. He did not have a natural fear of anything and nothing held him back. He was the youngest of three boys and the older brother of his sister Chrissy. Together these four siblings experienced sibling rivalry at its finest, and grew up as bilingual German-American children. Our family eventually moved to Watertown in 2003.
Stephen loved catching bugs, reptiles, frogs, and anything that he could find outside. He climbed every tree, dirt hill, and building he was able, and enjoyed spending his waking hours outdoors. Stephen always harbored a distinct distain for school, (which originated from a first grade teacher in Germany who did not have tolerance for his ADHD ways) and preferred to learn with is hands. As he grew, he collected knives and other weapons, went hunting, and hiked often with friends and family. He also enjoyed four-wheeling, skiing, and anything else that was exhilarating. Stephen incurred a concussion after a four-wheeling accident- an accident that split his helmet in two. Later he also suffered a severe concussion from a downhill skiing accident at Cascade Mountain.
After high school, Stephen joined the United States Marine Corps and became an Infantryman. His ‘buddies’ from his platoon remember him chasing and catching camel spiders to keep as a pet, cooking and eating tarantulas while everyone watched, exploring and enjoying every deployment (despite its dangers), and constantly making everyone laugh with his antics. Stephen was truly fearless and good-natured. Before his first deployment, a fellow marine burst into Stephen’s barrack while intoxicated and beat Stephen unconscious, giving him a severe concussion and a life-flight to the nearest hospital.
After his service in the Military, Stephen returned home and began working. He struggled considerably with a Traumatic Brain Injury- the result from his concussions.
During this time, he worked and spent much of his time with friends and family. He enjoyed long philosophical conversations with his oldest brother James, exploring Milwaukee with his brother David, and riding bikes through Watertown with his sister Chrissy. He enjoyed historical military movies and conversations with his Dad, and talking about nutrition and cooking with his Mom, more recently experimenting with preparing Sushi.
Stephen had a special bond with his cat Toki, a morbidly obese orange Tom-Cat with whom he shared an inseparable bond.
In recent years, Stephen harbored an obsessive drive for natural and self-healing. He sought help through many healing rehab centers as well as the VA. Most often, however, he researched herbal medicine, Reiki, and anything else he felt could heal his brain damage. While Stephen struggled with TBI, he was very intelligent, incredibly intuitive and unusually empathetic. Stephen would give someone the shirt off his back if he thought they needed it. He typically wore a harsh expression, looked unkempt, drove a very loud off-road jeep, and gave the impression that he was a scary person. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Stephen was a witty, sweet, and gentle person.
On the evening of January 16th and into the morning of the 17th, Stephen took some of his things down to the Rock River. He was preparing to practice some self-healing with cold water cleansing. (This is a practice in which someone exposes their body to very cold water as a way to promote mental clarity and healing.)
*Please note that this is not a rational or recommended practice and we do not promote this in any way, especially for those struggling with TBI. Please seek licensed professional help!
While testing the ice for a place to break a hole, he accidentally fell through and tragically drowned. Stephen’s body was finally found March 7th. He leaves behind a broken and grieving family and many friends who will forever feel his absence.
Who was Stephen? Stephen was your son, your brother, your nephew, your grandson. Stephen was your neighbor who made too much noise driving his car in the dead of night. Stephen was your former student who didn’t care about school. Stephen was your country’s marine that got hurt. Stephen is Watertown’s son. He could be yours- he could be anybody’s.
Tragically, this time, he was ours.
Many of you saw his vehicle parked on the side of the road late that night and early that morning. Others also saw the dive team and noticed the road closure. For our family- and hopefully for yours- we will see every unusually parked car as somebody’s child. Every cross on the side of a busy road is somebody’s heartbreak.
Thank you for the outpouring of love and compassion from the community.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department and dive team for their exceptional work, empathy, and understanding with our family during this time.