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Loretta Muilenburg, co-founder of Muilenburg Prosthetics Inc., Houston, passed away Monday, July 26th. She was 99. Loretta had been in nursing care since she suffered a serious stroke at age 93 and was in hospice care when she died from natural causes.
Loretta was born in Milltown, Wisconsin, to E.B. and Minna (Brix) Lindoo. Her father was a pharmacist and owned the local drug store, Lindoo Drugs. During her childhood she enjoyed spending time at local lakes, canoeing, swimming and fishing. She also loved singing, playing the piano, woodcarving, and painting. Interestingly, she kept a diary that detailed much of her childhood.
She attended the University of Minnesota where she graduated with a dual degree in Music and Fine Art. She was an active member of the Kappa Delta sorority and in 2017, she received a 75-year Diamond Circle Certificate!
It was at the University of Minnesota where she met her husband, the late Al Muilenburg. He was a waiter at the Cozy Café, working his way through college. After meeting Al, Loretta told her cousins and friends that she was going to marry him.
Al and Loretta were married in San Francisco on August 14, 1944, when Al, a naval officer, was on leave. While Al was at sea, Loretta completed studies in occupational therapy at Milwaukee-Downer College (Wisconsin) and then worked at army hospitals in California. She wanted to help veterans adjust to life after being injured in the war. Al felt the same way and was inspired to help amputees. Although Al studied to be an accountant, he began to train as a prosthetist.
After the war, Loretta and Al returned to Wisconsin and Al began post-graduate studies in orthotics and prosthetics. He joined the Minneapolis Artificial Limb Co., where he worked for two years.
The Muilenburgs moved to Houston in 1948 and established their own prosthetics business, then known as the Muilenburg Artificial Limb Company. The business was run out of the front of the home and their living quarters were in the back. In 1950, Loretta and Al moved their business to 3900 LaBranch. Their son, Ted Muilenburg, CP, joined the family business.
In Houston, the Muilenburgs expanded their family with three children. Loretta was a devoted mother and made sure her children led fun and interesting lives. When her daughters joined Girl Scouts, Loretta also became involved and accompanied the girls on many canoe trips and campouts.
The Muilenburgs also took up sailing and they were founders of the Seabrook Sailing Club on Galveston Bay. Al handmade their 18-foot sailboat named TILT and they spent many happy times on the Bay. During the summer they rented a summer home until Hurricane Carla wiped it out and they built a cottage adjacent to the club grounds. Loretta was in her element. She loved the water. She fished, netted shrimp and set crab traps, earning her the moniker of “The Crab Lady.” All the children loved her crabbing lessons. When she hoisted the crab flag everyone at the club knew they were welcome for a meal but they would have to pass the shell inspection to come back.
She took up racing on smaller boats that she could sail singlehandedly, i.e., Sailfish and Sunfish, even with her German Shepherd “Senta the sailing dog.” The family summers were filled with sailing, regattas, horseback riding and seafood. They even road their horses in the surf at Galveston. She was a great cook and often won awards at the sailing club’s annual gumbo competition. To keep her art skills honed, she took up making mosaics, many times with her children helping. One of her mosaics was a dining table with a large blue crab, which to this day still serves as the center piece in her new Seabrook cottage that she had built after hurricane Ike. She called it her “Palace in the Sky”.
One of Al and Loretta’s friends at the sailing club was an architect whom they contracted with to design and build a contemporary home for them on their 3-acre property in Houston. The home featured walls of sliding glass windows and high ceilings with inserts that brought in natural light and views of the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, the property ran along old Buffalo Bayou, so through the years due to subsidence the home was flooded and repaired numerous times. The home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, primarily from the flooding that resulted as the flood gates were opened at the Addicks and Barker dams.
Loretta was also an equestrian and a founder of the Gulf Coast Women’s Equine Association. She also rode with the Salt Grass Trail Ride Wagon #2 and the Valley Lodge Trail Ride. She stabled one to two horses throughout the years at the Houston home. She loved riding English and competed in hunting and jumping competitions. She also enjoyed fox hunting and was a founding member of the Nacogdoches Hound & Hunt Club in Chireno.
Loretta made many friends through the years and took many photographs. She would send out custom Christmas cards designed around photos she had taken of her friends. What a surprise when they opened their Christmas card and saw their own faces! She also was the photographer for the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) Auxiliary, of which she was a member.
Loretta and Al also traveled around the world for both business and pleasure and were married for 62 years when Al passed away July 5, 2005. Loretta remained involved in the business they started, even into her 90s, making weekly visits to the office where she visited with patients and employees.
Loretta was very active until she suffered a debilitating stroke in 2015 at age 93. Loretta always had an uncommonly strong will and enjoyment of life. She thrived on adventure and loved being around people. She was truly an amazing individual, and she touched many lives in a truly positive and rewarding way.
Surviving are her daughters Loral Cobb Haus (spouse Donald Haus) of Houston and Gretchen Woellner of Austin; son Ted Muilenburg (spouse Sally Muilenburg) of Houston; granddaughters Lorrella Cobb, Melissa Muilenburg, Cory Haus Moffat; grandsons John Woellner (spouse Laura Woellner), Max Muilenburg, and Robert Haus; great-granddaughters Emily Woellner, Evelyn Woellner, Hannah Haus, Madeline Crenshaw and E.B. Crenshaw. She was preceded in death by her husband, Al Muilenburg, son-in-law Don Cobb (husband of Loral Cobb Haus), and grandson Scott Haus.
April is Limb Loss Awareness Month, a time to celebrate those impacted by limb loss and limb difference. Initiated by the Amputee Coalition in 2010, it was not only designed to raise awareness about limb loss but also limb loss prevention.
People with the greatest risk are those with diabetes or vascular impairment, such as peripheral arterial disease. Cancer is another cause, but so is trauma from lawnmower and farming accidents to motorcycle and car crashes.
According to the Amputee Coalition:
The goals of Limb Loss Awareness Month are to heighten public awareness about limb loss and increase people’s understanding of prevention-especially those most at risk. The Amputee Coalition also works to ensure that amputees do not have to go through this journey alone.
The Amputee Coalition also offers a vast library of resources at its National Limb Loss Resource Center. The Center offers informational materials, educational webinars, links to support groups, guides for pain management, mental health and wellness, and information and referral specialists.
While COVID-19 has limited what we can do for in-person events, we encourage amputees to share their limb loss stories with others by using social media outlets.
At Muilenburg Prosthetics, our mission is to treat those with limb loss with the highest degree of care and technology. We take pride in our patients who regain their mobility and do not let their limb differences keep them from living their life to the fullest.
Do you have a question about prosthetic care or want to schedule a free evaluation? We are happy to be of service.
As a new amputee, it may be hard for you to imagine living the life you are used to. Although you will have to adjust how you undertake normal daily living activities, we will help you regain the highest level of ability for your individual situation with a correct fitting prosthesis.
It’s important for us to make sure you have the right components to fit your lifestyle. For example, if you are a 26-year-old who is returning to work and engaging in athletic activity, your prosthesis will be different from a 72-year-old whose interests lie in the basement workshop or golf course, which will be different from a prosthesis for an individual who is homebound.
A prosthesis consists of the socket, which fits over your residual limb; a liner worn between the residual limb and the socket to provide cushioning; a suspension system that helps keep the prosthesis on securely; and lastly the components, the working part of the prosthesis that includes knees, ankles and feet. There are many options for this last group.
Fitting of your prosthesis begins when the swelling is under control and the suture line has healed, usually 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. During this time, you also will be wearing a shrinker to control swelling and to prepare for the prosthetic fitting.
Several visits are required before you receive your final prosthesis. This blog discusses the first visit.
At our first meeting, we will review your required doctor’s prescription and ask you many questions about your overall health and medical history. We will discuss your rehabilitation goals and expectations, such as returning to work, engaging in athletic or recreational activities, living/caregiver arrangements, skill levels, and more.
We’ll also determine your muscle strengths and weaknesses as well as range of motion/flexibility of the involved and surrounding joints, not only of your residual limb, but your sound limb as well. Maintaining or reducing any contractures in your joints is important along with your overall strength to enable you to stand straight and gain balance.
Measurements will be taken of your residual limb and your sound limb. This will include the lengths and circumferences of body segments, and locations of bony landmarks and tendons. Careful attention is also paid to potential complications such as the presence of scar tissue, neuromas, edema, and weight problems.
The first visit is also a good time for a family member or trusted friend to be present. We will be giving you a lot of information and it’s always helpful for a third party to listen and recall details for you later, if needed. We understand you may have many questions and we encourage you to ask them.
Our next blog will focus on your second visit, where we begin the creation of the socket. The socket is the critical component to get the right level of fit and comfort.