Francis “Fritz” Mullen has been a staple of Cortland for decades. He worked at his father’s Main Street store Mullen Office Outfitters for more than 70 years — running the business more than 40 — until it closed in 2018 after 105 years. Now, he holds the title of Hall of Famer.
The Homeville Museum, a component of the Central New York Living History Center, partnered with the
Cortland County Historical Society to host an induction ceremony Saturday in honor of the five 2021 Cortland County Hall of Fame selectees.
“The center welcomes the first (inductee) that has actually been able to make it to the ceremony in person,” said museum President Kim Walsh, inviting Mullen to the podium to accept his certificate.
Mullen, born in 1923, is the only living inductee this year. He was named for his military service and his dedication to the Cortland community. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, completing 32 missions in Europe as a top turret gunner in the B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress, including during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
“He is obviously very special, both through his military services and the fact nobody has a bad
thing to say about him,” Walsh said.
When Mullen Office Outfitters closed for business four years ago, he received a lot of support from friends and neighbors, said Christine Totman, who worked for Mullen for 20 years.
“You could go in there and find anything you wanted, even if it was just one pencil or pen, whatever it was, it was there,” Totman said. “It’s so funny, people would come in and they’d be like, ‘Oh, how’s your dad doing?’ Like, he’s not my dad, but my dad’s been gone for 13 years so it was nice to have (Fritz) as like a dad.”
Accompanying him to his induction ceremony was his family, including his two daughters, Diane Brown and Nancy Mullen. Nancy Mullen said although her father was not expecting to be selected as a Hall of Famer, she wasn’t surprised.
“I think that for a business to be in business for so many years (is impressive), and not too many people retire at 94,” Nancy Mullen said. “There’s a lot of people that like talking to him, and he’s been here all his life.”
After the ceremony, Fritz Mullen received a gift from the Quilts of Valor Foundation and posed for photos with his new quilt and certificate of induction. But he stayed humble.
“When you get to a certain age, it’s nice even just getting out of the bed in the morning,” he said with a shrug and a smile.
Valerie Puma/staff reporter
Francis (Fritz) Mullen, 98, poses with his certificate of induction into the the Cortland County Hall of Fame on Saturday. Mullen, born in 1923, is the only living inductee this year. The former owner of Mullen Office Outfiters, he was named for his military service and his dedication to the Cortland community.
Joining Francis “Fritz” Mullen in the Homeville Museum’s 2021 Cortland County Hall of Fame are four others
- Sgt. Llewelyn Norton (1837-1914), a native of Scott, who fought with the Union Army’s 10th New York
Cavalry. He captured two Confederate soldiers at the Battles of Little Sailor’s Creek in 1865 and received the Medal of Honor.
- John Forshee (1883-1974) was born in Willet, but lived most of his life in Cincinnatus. He was a tinsmith. His tools and works of art are on display at the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, and he was also the subject of a PBS Special, “Inheritance.”
- Nellie Randall (1892-1983) immigrated to America from Scotland in 1909, settling in Homer. She was best known for being in charge of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dining rooms during World War II, serving President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gen. George C. Marshall and Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.
- William J. Dwyer (1895-1958) was born in Truxton and received a civil engineering degree from Cornell University. He joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1917, serving in Europe, and returned home in 1919 to a job with the state highway department. He was later Cortland County highway superintendent until his death in 1958. In 1951, he designed what is now Dwyer Park in Preble.
Five 2020 inductees were also noted:
- Charles L. Reason.
- James S. Squires.
- Dr. Lydia Hammond Strowbridge.
- Alton B. Parker.
- Gary F. Woods.