This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
And shine she did. Eileen would smile and sway to this beloved gospel hymn, never realizing the song was her song, the happy notes capturing her influence on family and friends. Born on the year’s shortest, darkest day, Eileen exemplified her name’s Gaelic origin: bright, shining one. The second child and only daughter of Bill and Nellie Muelken, Eileen grew up in Credit River tolerated by her older brother, adored by her younger brothers, and surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors.
Pretty and popular, Eileen’s dance card was full in high school and throughout life. Voted Lakeville High School’s class of 1954 homecoming queen, Eileen’s spirited personality was matched by her warmth. She sought to include rather than exclude, always welcoming new friends – friendships that endured for decades. Following graduation, Eileen moved to Minneapolis to train as a laboratory technician. While earning her certification, she worked as a nanny and eventually shared an apartment with her friends (and cousins) Liz and Mary Gallagher. Seeking adventure, Liz and Eileen headed to Los Angeles where Eileen worked at UCLA and enjoyed sunshine, sand, and LA’s urban energy.
Eileen’s career spanned three phases: corporate, medical, and public service. She was an executive assistant in Northwest Airlines’s legal department, worked in several medical offices, and retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Her knowledge and energetic nature enlivened the workplace. Dull never stood a chance when Eileen was around. Following her retirement from the PCA, she provided respite services through an eldercare agency, winning over even the most recalcitrant individuals – often with a deck of cards. Knowing that one person can make a difference, her volunteer activities included Big Brothers and Big Sisters, hospice, and most recently tutoring English to speakers of other languages.
Northwest’s employee benefits kickstarted Eileen’s lifelong love of travel and exploration. At age 24, she sailed to England and began a 14-country odyssey that included continental Europe and Ireland. She recounted beautiful memories of castles, churches, pubs, and dances. Other trips took her to Asia, Brazil, the Bahamas, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii. Travel fueled her insatiable curiosity. An avid reader, her day began with coffee and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Her knowledge of current events was extensive, and she was known to express impatience with our inability to learn from the past. Delighted to exchange books with the neighborhood’s little libraries, Eileen was always ready to share an author or book recommendation. The Hennepin County Library System has lost a steadfast patron.
A passionate bridge and lifelong 500 card player, Eileen belonged to several card clubs where her friendships deepened and her competitive spirit flourished. Always on the go, Eileen shared her enjoyment of restaurants, theaters, movies, and concerts. Generations of children enjoyed visits to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Richfield Nature Center, and the Lyndale Rose Garden and Peace Park. Eileen enjoyed a drive in the country, following familiar paths, revisiting old haunts.
Eileen delighted in her neighborhood and lived in her Richfield home for more than 50 years. She tended her garden with enthusiasm and looked forward to spring’s sunshine and blossoms. When no longer able to trim and weed, she provided expert instruction to those who so willingly helped. Very fond of her neighbors, Eileen appreciated their friendship, garden bounty, kitchen gifts, and assistance with tasks as her mobility declined. Their attention sustained her happiness. She was grateful.
Eileen was a mentor, confidant, counselor, adopted sister, and co-conspirator. A trusted listener, she boosted our confidence and encouraged excellence. With her, our secrets were safe. Her wit prompted cascades of laughter. She embraced silly, laughed easily, sparkled.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
Eileen entered eternal life on November 15, 2022. A visitation will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 from 4-7PM at Ballard-Sunder Funeral Home, Prior Lake. A Mass of Christian Burial will be Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at 11AM with a visitation 1-hour prior at St. Michael Catholic Church, Prior Lake. Father Tom Walker will preside, and Eileen will be laid to rest at Credit River Cemetery.
Live Streaming available at St. Michael Catholic Church’s website https://stmichael-pl.org and by clicking on the “Mass and Services” tab.
Eileen is survived by: sister-in-law, Linda Muelken; nieces, Mary van Muelken (Marvin Schulte), Elizabeth Davidson (Wes), Joan Hosking (Rob), Kay Grosklags, Lisa Muelken-Smith (Shawn), Tracy Waddell, and nephew Billy Muelken (Mary Wyman), their children and grandchildren, many cousins and friends. Eileen was preceded in death by her parents, William and Nellie Muelken; and her siblings, Frank (Eileen F.) Muelken, Gene (Suzy) Muelken, and Jack Muelken.
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