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Friday, December 16, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Rev. Dennis Muehe Ran Catholic Charities For 18 Years

The Rev. Dennis Muehe, a quiet man with a perenially happy expression, seemed to have found his niche directing Catholic Charities in Western Washington from 1960 to 1978.

He anticipated people's needs and met them unconditionally.

He wrangled increasingly large grants from United Way to run social-service offices in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Everett and Vancouver.

And he championed foster children, single mothers and adoptive parents.

But Father Muehe, who died Wednesday at 68 of diabetes and heart trouble, had to blush one day when he took three children to a hospital for exams before placing them in a foster home.

He had not been ordained long.

"The littlest boy was just finishing," said Father Muehe's sister Mary Dean of Ogden, Utah, "and came running up to him, saying, `Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! You've got to take care of me.' There he was in his black suit and collar, with everyone looking. He liked to tell that story on himself later."

Father Muehe made Catholic Charities, now Catholic Community Services, the state's largest private provider of adoption, foster care, maternity and family-counseling services, said John McCoy, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

According to Father Muehe's sister Margaret Mitchell of Seattle, "He always said the family was the most important thing in the world. Every child was important, especially (those) no one would adopt."

Father Muehe doted on his own 30 nieces and nephews. When his mother was alive, he regularly had Sunday dinner with the family at her home.

He enrolled at St. Edward's Seminary in Kenmore at age 14 and was ordained in 1954. He assisted at St. James Cathedral and in Immaculate Conception Parish, and worked as a hospital chaplain before attending Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master's degree in social work in 1957.

While at Catholic Charities, he also was chaplain to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, spiritual director of the Association for Catholic Childhood and archdiocesan director of Catholic Hospitals.

In 1978, he became pastor of St. Bridget parish in Laurelhurst.

The Rev. Gerald Stanley, who worked with Father Muehe, called him "a great supporter and a great challenger. He brought a deep personal touch to his pastoring because he was willing to share himself."

Father Muehe took a medical leave in 1989 and retired in 1993.

"But he always thought of other people," said his brother, Charles Edward Muehe Jr., of Bradenton, Fla. "He would come east whenever we had a baptism or a wedding. As a matter of fact, my wife Alice and I were his first wedding, in 1954. We had our 40th-anniversary reunion just last August, and he came."

A funeral Mass was scheduled for today. Remembrances may be sent to the Mount St. Vincent Foundation, 4831 35th Ave. S.W., Seattle, WA 98126.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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