Patty (Mary Patricia) Puig Mueller made her journey home in the early morning of April 2, 2023. Those who know her and her devotion to the Catholic Church may (correctly) surmise she had a hand in the timing of her exit---it was on Palm Sunday and not April Fool’s Day.
Patty was born on December 10, 1931, in Laredo, Texas to Dr. Valentine Lawrence Puig and Louise Payne Puig, the second of four children. She attended Martin High School where she was named Best All Round in her senior year. The students got that right. Patty had a very long and full life, achieving much in her 91 years.
Her freshman year of college was spent at Ward Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee, after which she transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. She was an enthusiastic member of Chi Omega Sorority at UT where she made lifelong friends. Following graduation with a degree in education and a minor in business, she moved to Corpus Christi, Texas to teach elementary school students.
There she met Joe Mueller. He, sitting in a pew behind her at a funeral, mesmerized by the fur bits that dangled from her hat as she knelt and rose to the rhythms of the Mass, asked a friend for an introduction. Her tradition of breaking glass ceilings started then. Family lore has it that she asked Joe to marry her. They both chose well, celebrating 62 years together at the time of Joe’s passing in 2016.
Together they raised five children, Michelle, Martha, Mary Pat, Paul and Julianna in Corpus Christi. She joined Joe in their petroleum consulting and operating business companies, Mueller Engineering Corp. and Mueller Exploration, Inc., and together they grew them into leading, well-known and well-respected firms in the Texas Coastal Bend and along the Texas Gulf Coast.
At a time when women couldn’t get a credit card without their husband’s signature on the account, Patty held leadership positions in the business and civic worlds. She served as a director and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio Branch, was a long-time board member, serving as board of Trustees Chairman and on various other boards and committees for both Christus Spohn Health System and Christus Muguerza Hospital System in Monterrey, Mexico, where she navigated with ease bilingually. Patty held leadership roles with the Coastal Bend Community Foundation, the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf Coast Council of Boy Scouts of America and the Nueces River Authority.
She believed that lives are immensely enriched through reading and education. Patty served on the Corpus Christi Library Foundation Board and dedicated herself to raising funds to build a new public library in Corpus Christi. In the early years of the Texas Book Festival, she was active on their advisory council.
If you went out to dinner with her, you would have witnessed her peppering younger wait staff with questions about their education status, encouraging them to stay in school or go back and pursue a degree. She used to say “No one can take your education away from you.” Patty and Joe set up and donated/contributed to scholarship funds at colleges across Texas. She served on educational councils at many universities including The Texas A & M Dwight Look College of Engineering External Advisory and Development Council and The Texas A & M University Vision 2020 Advisory Council. She and Joe so enjoyed co-chairing the Texas A & M University System Chancellor’s Century Council, travelling across the state and meeting interesting people and leaders in the college’s system.
Patty was also a Board of Trustees member for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She served on the University of Texas at Austin Development Board and helped plot the future of the University of Texas at Austin as a member of their Commission of 125. She was always a very devoted Longhorn fan, alternatively cheering and yelling at the TV. A week before she passed, she rallied watching her beloved UT win their Sweet 16 tournament basketball game, high-fiving those watching with her. And she relished the roles of reading at Masses and supporting her two church homes, The Corpus Christi Cathedral and St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Opelika Auburn, Alabama.
Patty was proud of her 18 grandchildren and six great-grandkids---all unique and all who have forged their own paths in life. Holidays and entertaining were big affairs at the Mueller household, first on Indiana Street, then on Hewit Drive in Corpus Christi, and then at Stonybrook Road in Opelika, Alabama, where she and Joe moved in 2007. At her Easter celebrations, both clergy and family competed enthusiastically for the golden egg and best hat awards. Her “See Nonna for a prize” slips of paper in plastic eggs had Patty’s grandkids cacophonously gathered around her, clamoring for surprises she would ceremoniously pull out of her bottomless bag of Easter gifts. She also loved hosting grandkids and their friends for nights featuring her famous tacos.
Patty was a crack stock picker. Her secret? “I watch what people buy, eat and use and invest,” she would say. Her Wall Street earnings paid for weddings, college funds and lots of travel. Patty was equally at home in city and the South Texas scrub wilderness. She spent many happy, working days with family at the St. Jude Ranch in Mirando City, Texas where she and Joe “ran cattle.” She loved birds of all kinds, but squirrels who siphoned off the food she put out for her avian friends were on her “do not roam” list. She wasn’t intimidated by crawling insects or vipers. In fact, not long before she died, a small rat snake made its way into her home through an open patio door. Patty on her Rollator Mobility unit took it to task. By the time her son-in-law and grandson Josh arrived, there were two reptilian body parts to dispose of.
Patty is survived by her five children, Michelle Mueller, Martha Mueller-Guicciardini (Federico), MP Mueller, Paul Mueller (Beth) and Julianna Clardy (Mike), sister Sara Puig Laas, brother Dick Puig (Ingrid), 18 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Close family members who went before her are her infant son Peter Lawrence Mueller, infant granddaughter Pia Luisa Guicciardini, father and mother, Valentine and Louise Puig and brother, Larry Puig.
Her family is so grateful to two very special women, Berenice Carstetter and Alicia Williams, who worked alongside Patty for years. Patty cherished their friendship as much as their loyalty. The family also wishes to express heartfelt gratitude to the wonderful caregivers who tended to her with much love and patience during her last few months, Nikki Dawson, Puff Nelms and Karen Phanthachith.
Her religious celebration will be held on Monday, April 10th at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Auburn, Alabama. Visitation is at 9:30 AM, rosary at 10:30 with a funeral Mass following at 11:00. All are invited to a reception after the Mass in the parish hall.
There will be a graveside service at Seaside Memorial Park in Corpus Christi on Saturday, April 22nd at 2:30 pm.
In lieu of flowers, friends might like to make a donation in her memory to two that were at the top of Patty’s favorite charities list: Edmundite Missions, P.O. Box 2114, in Selma, Alabama, 36702-2114 and the Mother Teresa Shelter in Corpus Christi, Texas, 513 Sam Rankin Ave., Corpus Christi, Texas, 78401.