What do trains, Christmas cookies, and the Castle have in common? Read on for the delicious story of how two people fell in love…
Linda Mueller, current owner of Castle Farms, was shy and bashful while growing up in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio. When she was a senior in high school, Linda’s parents talked her into taking speech class. “It will be good for you,” they said. At the time, Linda didn’t agree, but she’s since changed her mind. “It turned out to be a good class for me,” she says. “I got a husband!”
Linda and Richard Mueller met while in speech class together. Linda was fascinated with Richard from the beginning, but it took him until early December to ask her out for a date. They went to see a movie, and then to a restaurant which had trains running on tracks up around the ceiling high above their heads. Both of them thought the trains were awesome. A few weeks later, Linda designed special ‘train cookies’ for Richard at Christmas. Since she couldn’t find train cookie cutters, she cut them by hand, baked and decorated them, then stored them in a special tin. Richard loved the train cookies, and hid them in his desk so his family wouldn’t find them and eat them.
By New Year’s, Linda and Richard were a steady item. They even ‘double-dated’ with his parents who often treated the couple to dinner and movies. Linda was intrigued by Richard and his family. While she was a quiet stay-at-home type, he and his family were always going out and doing things. Looking back, she laughs about it. “I never realized when I married him that it would result in non-stop action for the rest of my life.”
Senior prom and high school graduation came and went. At summer’s end, Richard went off to study engineering at the University of Michigan, while Linda headed to Kent State for art history. But college couldn’t keep them apart. After their freshman year, Linda (who, at the ripe old age of 19 had already decided that Richard was the man for her, and that she couldn’t wait around forever), said to him one day, “Why don’t we get married?” Richard didn’t even blink. He nodded and said, “Sounds like a good idea to me.”
They were married on May 3, 1969, in a church featuring gothic arches and stone walls (just like the Castle). After they returned from their honeymoon, the newlyweds settled into married housing at the University of Michigan and Linda happily went about making their first home together. Richard (who was still a student) also worked for a small business called Domino’s Pizza. He’d started working for Domino’s in 1967, driving a delivery truck and delivering pizza to the dorms. Richard bought his first Domino’s store in 1970 as soon as he turned 21 and was old enough to sign the contracts. In partnership with his brother (and later his and Linda’s oldest son), the number grew to over 135 Domino’s Pizza stores, primarily in Mississippi and Louisiana. “Most of the profits went into real estate and investments,” says Linda, “and that worked out pretty well.” All that pepperoni helped fund the purchase of the Castle.
Linda was still in high school the first time she saw the Castle. She’d traveled to Charlevoix with Richard and his family, who had summer ties to the area. Linda was fascinated by the great stone walls and buildings of Castle Farms. After she and Richard married, the two of them visited every time the Castle was open for events. When it came up for sale, Richard ‘bugged her’ to buy and restore the Castle, a decision she does not regret. “Richard was always bugging me to do stuff,” she says, “and even after 46 years of marriage, he’s still bugging me to do stuff today.” But when it came to buying the Castle, she didn’t rely just on Richard. A woman of deep faith, Linda put the decision into God’s hands. “It’s your choice, God,” she thought to herself. “If it’s not right for me, then I’ll accept it.” Ultimately the sale went through and in January 2002, Linda became the fourth owner of Castle Farms. Linda still puts everything in the hands of God, even after 46 years of marriage, four children, and six grandchildren later. “You just never know,” she says. “Richard and I did everything wrong, and it still worked out.”
All because two people fell in love, and some train Christmas cookies. It seems fitting that today, the Castle has the largest Outdoor Model Railroad in Michigan. Plus, Richard and Linda’s son Chris and his wife Karrie have their own cookie cutter web business. One of the things it sells: train cookie cutters! Linda laughs and says, “I could have used a couple of those back when Richard and I first met.”
Visit the Castle for a glimpse of Linda and Richard’s wedding cake topper. The same cake topper was used by their daughter Kathy on her own wedding cake. Linda’s wedding dress can be seen at the Castle by visitors on tour during the week of June 18-24 at the 6th Annual Antique Wedding Gown & Quilt Display.