Jeff Mueller - Aloha
Jeffrey Robert Mueller, 57, died in Honolulu on December 19 of natural causes. His was a story of struggle, survival and success. When Mueller arrived in Hawaii in 1973, he was a 19-year-old heroin addict, introduced to the drug by a Vietnam veteran friend in their hometown of Greeley, Colorado. Once in Honolulu, Mueller ran afoul of the law, landing on Hawaii’s “Most Wanted” list and ultimately spending nearly a decade in Halawa Correctional Facility, where his advocacy of prisoners’ rights initiated the imposition of a 1985 decree mandating federal oversight of Hawaii’s overcrowded prison system.
A minister’s son, Mueller decided that his calling was to spend the rest of his life helping others, a promise he kept. In 1997, he was awarded the Honolulu Police Department’s highest civilian award, the Civilian Medal of Valor, for his actions at the scene of an attempted murder. At the time, he was doing a practicum with Child Protective Services, counseling at-risk youth with Child & Family Services, and assisting children suffering from cancer.
It was in his partnership with local filmmaker Edgy Lee that Mueller touched thousands of Hawaii families. In 2003 and 2004, Mueller and Lee wrote and co-produced ICE, Hawaii’s Crystal Meth Epidemic and its sequel, LIFE OR METH — Hawaii’s Youth. Both films were simulcast commercial- free throughout the state on 11 television channels, the first time since the 1969 Armstrong moon walk that viewers clicking from channel to channel saw and heard the same program.
“Jeff was intuitively gifted in film production,” said Lee. “And his painful real-life experiences provided him with both the motivation and means to tell our stories as no one else could.” Together, Lee and Mueller received the first Pacific Business News Leadership Award in the nonprofit category in 2004.
Mueller also created statewide educational programs for the Hawaii firefighters and stevedores and was the keynote speaker at numerous events including the National Association of U.S. Counties Symposium on Meth in 2005 and 2006. Honolulu Fire Department Chief Kenneth Silva remembers Mueller fondly: “Jeff’s gift was in helping people understand that they can change and that we all play a role in supporting those in need; he will be greatly missed by the community that he gave so much to and that he loved so deeply.”
The University of Hawaii’s Dr. William Haning, noted educator, Director of the Pacific Addiction Research Center, and addiction authority, worked with Mueller on several projects. “Jeff aided the Mayor's Task Force on Drug Abuse for three years, catalyzing intervention and treatment practices for firefighters that endure today. His work for Hawaii longshoremen literally saved lives, and by extension, saved families."
Mueller is survived by his son, Jeffrey, his sister, Lisa, and a future grandson.
A celebration of Mueller’s life will be held on Wednesday, December 28, at the Charthouse in Waikiki, starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Studio@FilmWorksPacific.com.
Peter Gellatly & Mackinnon Simpson for PacificNetwork.tv