Bill Mullen liked helping people in trouble.
That was a good thing because Mullen, who owned a car lot, filling station and then a wrecking service in Glen Rose for 50 years, got calls at all hours from people in trouble.
One of them was Dr. Mike Davis.
When an ice storm hit the area some years ago, Davis lived at the top of a hill. When tried to drive down the hill he went off the road, into a ditch and busted a tire. Mullen came and towed his car out.
Then when Davis tried to go into town to get another tire, he went off the road and into the ditch again. He called Mullen, who came out a second time.
“Then later I needed to go to the store and I went down the hill and off the road again,” Davis said with a laugh. He called Mullen.
“Do you want to put me on retainer?” Mullen asked him.
“He was always there for me,” Davis said.
So when Mullen got into trouble himself with cancer, his friends and other people he had rescued came to his aid.
His friend Jerry Parham gave Mullen a special gift. He restored Bill’s beloved wrecking truck, complete with fuzzy dice dangling from the rearview mirror. Bill rode in it and waved to the crowd lining Barnard Street during the Fourth of July parade.
Mullen died Sept. 12 in a Fort Worth hospital after a year-and-a-half-long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Several hundred people came to pay their respects to Mullen at his funeral service held last Friday in the Glen Rose High School Auditorium. Many were from Mullen’s graduating class, the GRHS class of 1959.
Flower arrangements filled the stage. Some of Mullen’s favorite songs were played.
“We knew him best when we were calling him to help us in our situation,” said Pastor John Turner of New Prospect Baptist Church, where Bill and his wife, Ruth, regularly attended.
“For 50 years he made a commitment to be available to you,” Turner said. “He stayed in town in case you had to call. He did it because of the desire in his heart to care and serve and be helpful.
“I think if some stores didn’t have to stay open the whole town would be here right now, he had such an impact on his community,” Turner added.
Turner met Mullen after he busted a tire and his in-laws, Garland and Dorothy Jo Osborn, told him about Bill and what a fine man he was. When Turner was called to become pastor at New Prospect, he encountered Mullen again and the two became fast friends, he recalled.
Mullen left no doubt in the minds and hearts of his family that he loved them, Turner added. He’d walk by Ruth, and say, “Boy, I love that woman!”
“He backed up his words with his life and his decisions,” Turner said. “His word was his bond. If he said something, you could take it to the bank.”
Mullen stepped in to raise children who weren’t his own. He adopted them and treated them like his own, Turner said. He also “adopted” other young people and became a father figure to them.
Several people who knew Mullen well spoke at his funeral. Brenda Maynard, who was classmates with him, said Mullen “remembered everything. He never forgot anybody and never met a stranger.”
He called her “Brenda May,” to which she retorted, “Brenda May not.”
County Commissioner John Curtis, who moved to Glen Rose in 1980, found himself living across the street from the Mullens. He recalled enjoyable times with Bill at the car lot and the station.
“I am amazed at who he knew, who they were kin to and his recollection of all the tales he knew,” Curtis said. “He was a true friend.”
After the service, people gathered to watch pallbearers bring out the casket containing Mullen’s body. It was his wish to be transported to Georges Creek Cemetery on the back of Parham’s long tow trailer. The coffin was strapped down and covered for the short trip to the cemetery. The procession was led by the restored wrecking truck, followed by the longbed trailer and Mullen’s family and friends.
Then they followed in a line down Big Bend Trail to Georges Creek. Drivers turned on their car lights in respect and paused to watch a sight not seen every day - a last journey, carried out for a friend who had carried out many requests for many others over the years.
In addition to his wife, Ruth, Mullen is survived by their children Kimberly Howard, Charlotte Marsh, Lyndol Shelnutt and Deborah Phipps, 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, his sister, Betty Orr, and husband, Lowell, his brother, Gary Mullen, and wife, Linda, several nieces and nephews and many friends.
Pall bearers were Bill Sinclair, Kenneth Woods, Phillip Dempsey, Ronald Dempsey, Mike Lewellen, John Curtis, Matt Todd and Danny Chambers. Honorary pall bearers were Jerry Parham, Lovell Weedon, Danny Butler, Doug Ransom, Duane Bruner, Doyle Wilson, Gerald Schoonover, Sam White and the men of the Class of 1959.