Ron Mueller of Waterloo became the latest Monroe County resident to be inducted into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame last week.
Mueller was inducted during an event at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield last Tuesday.
“If you do something for long enough, I guess they reward you for it,” Mueller joked when asked about his induction. “It’s a nice honor. There are a lot of people in Monroe County deserving of this honor, but for some reason they picked me. I’m grateful.”
To be nominated for induction into the 4-H Illinois Hall of Fame, an individual must be nominated by a University of Illinois Extension staff member. Each unit may select one person per county.
Mueller was chosen after being involved with 4-H since he was 10 years old.
As a young 4-H member, Mueller showed a registered Hampshire gilt and received a blue ribbon at the Monroe County Fair.
Mueller later transitioned to raising hogs for 30 years. He also raised strawberries in high school.
By the time he was in his early 20s, Mueller had also made the change to a leadership role within 4-H. He led the Waterloo branch of the club for 27 years.
“It was very rewarding,” Mueller said of the position. “I got to help out a lot of kids. I helped them learn to keep record books, about their products and parliamentary procedure.”
Throughout his time leading the program, Mueller said a highlight was the skit competition that took place annually.
For the event, local 4-H clubs would put on skits and the club the judges said had the best skit would represent the county at the state fair.
“It was always pretty fun for the kids,” Mueller recalled.
Mueller no longer has an active leadership role within 4-H, but he still helps out where he can.
He has served as a committee member of the annual Harvest Night fundraiser since its inception.
He also serves as vice president of the Monroe County Fair Association, a position he has held for almost 40 years.
Through that role, Mueller helps make the fair a success and thereby allows 4-H members to showcase their skills.
“It’s a busy role,” Mueller explained. “It’s year round. There’s always something. But it’s rewarding to see all the kids. The fair is always about the kids and the community.”
Mueller, who lived across the street from the fairgrounds for 25 years, said that looking back, it seemed almost inevitable he would help lead the fair.
“Growing up as a kid, the fair was something I looked forward to every year,” he said. “I came to love the fair. So it was just natural I would join the fair board.”
After his lifetime of service in numerous areas of the program, Mueller said he thinks 4-H is still relevant to children in 2018 and worthy of support.
“It helps kids learn responsibility,” he explained. “It’s a form of education they don’t get at school.”