Merced County and the Los Banos community lost a local philanthropist when Minerva Joanne Mueller, known to most as simply Joanne, passed away on July 12. Joanne was actively supporting the Merced County Historical Society. She was an annual Silver sponsor of the Los Banos Memorial Hospital Gala.
Joanne was the heart and soul of St. John’s Lutheran Church, where she and her late husband, Robert Mueller, were members since 1959.
She was born on Jan. 29, 1935 in Merced, to Henry and Helen (Escola) Wolfsen. She was one of five Wolfsen siblings, including Henry Wolfsen (deceased), Warren Wolfsen (Carole), Shirley Stoltenberg (Gerald) and Norman Wolfsen (deceased).
Joanne attended schools in Dos Palos, graduating from Dos Palos High in 1952. She moved on to UC Davis as a Home Economics major and played women’s basketball.
While at college, she met a soldier stationed at nearby Travis Air Force Base named Robert (Bob) Mueller, of Wisconsin. They married in 1957 and returned to Bob’s home state of Wisconsin, where they operated a dairy ranch.
Two years later, the couple returned to California, where they settled on the San Luis Ranch outside Dos Palos. In 1963, they purchased a home in Los Banos, which became their primary residence the rest of their lives.
The couple were major farm operators in the surrounding Merced, Madera and Fresno counties, in cooperation with other Wolfsen family farming activities. They also started and operated a fish farm in the Volta area.
Joanne was known for her generosity, but in a quiet manner, rarely making her philanthropy well-known. She loved to put her cooking and craft skills to work as host, entertain friends and family in her Los Banos home, out on the ranch or at their cabin near Fish Camp.
Mrs. Mueller loved God’s many creations, particularly birds. She once threatened the owner of The Quail Wine Bistro, in Los Banos, that if he ever served quail, she would never go there again. He assured her quail would never be served in his establishment, as quail have a reputation for scurrying out on their tabs.
Joanne is survived by her two daughters, LaVonne Borcherding (Bart) of Washington state, and Heather Kirkpatrick of Turlock, CA, as well as four grandchildren, Heather Kirkpatrick, Shannon Clark (Daniel), Rory Borcherding (Suchira), Taylor Closser (Jeremy), and two great grandsons: Noah and Oliver Clark.
A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 250 W. Adams Ave. Los Banos, on July 29 at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow in the Parish Hall. Interment will be a private service at the Wolfsen family site adjacent to the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery on July 31.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the St. John’s Memorial Fund, the Merced County Historical Society, Heifer International or another charity of your choice.