‘Mr. Hoolie’ spreads love on Whidbey

Mr. Hoolie brightens the lives of strangers in Oak Harbor through simple acts of kindness.

By Janessa Bates

Special to the News-Times

Ninety-year-old Mr. Hoolie brightens the lives of strangers in Oak Harbor through simple acts of kindness.

With a warm smile, he hands out notes that read, “GOD LOVES HOOLIE (ME). HE LOVES YOU, TOO!!! AND SO DO I !!!,” paper-clipped to a $20 bill.

Among friends and family, Louis Albert Muehlhausen is known as “Hoolie.” However, to the rest of the town, he’s “Mr. Hoolie”— the man who turns everyday encounters into unforgettable moments.

Mr. Hoolie is often seen at local establishments like McDonald’s, Arby’s or Walmart, wearing a name tag that reads “God Loves Hoolie” along with his unique cowboy hat.

“Everybody likes my hat,” he said as he pointed out the various pins, including military emblems and one from his time working on the president’s helicopters. “That’s ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ That’s Marine Corps. That’s – I have White House clearance. There’s golden eagles.”

While his distinctive hat often catches people’s attention, it’s his actions that have left an impact on the community.

“They’re always telling me, ‘You’re a great guy.’ I don’t feel like I’m somebody special. I just do what I can,” Mr. Hoolie said.

His impact can be seen through an encounter with Jessica Boe and her family, who are new to the island. While her daughter was at her first day of school, Boe took her other two children to McDonald’s, where Mr. Hoolie approached and handed her 5-year-old son $20 with his signature note attached. This small gesture was so impactful to Boe and her family, that they decided to pay it forward and pay for a stranger’s coffee.

“We were surprised, and it brightened our day for sure… what a loving man,” Boe said in a private Facebook message.

Reflecting on his actions, Mr. Hoolie said, “I don’t remember how long I’ve been doing it. It’s been a while.”

Yet, almost every day, he is still handing out his note attached to money.

“Except Saturday,” he said with a smile. “Saturday I don’t go anywhere. I stay home and read my Bible.”

When asked if his faith inspired him to start this, Mr. Hoolie responded without hesitation,

“Certainly, I knew I had to do something. That seemed like a good thing to do.” He added, “It’s just the way I am. I love people.”

Born and raised on Whidbey Island, Charity Hamilton has heard what she called “urban legends” about Mr. Hoolie. She described a Christmas encounter at Walmart when she was overwhelmed by the upcoming holiday and financial strain and said to her four kids that she could barely afford what was in their cart. Shortly after, she heard a gentleman say, “Hope this helps, ma’am. Have a very Merry Christmas,” as he placed $100 in her hand.

“I wept in that aisle for a solid few minutes because that blessing could not have come at a more needed time,” Hamilton said in a private Facebook message. “It made my day, and my whole month. I still think about it often and hope to get to a point someday where I can do the same and be like Mr. Hoolie!”

Cierra Rose, another lifetime Whidbey Island resident, said she has heard about Mr. Hoolie around town and in various Facebook posts.

“He’s kind of like a celebrity on the island,” Rose said in a Facebook message.

She encountered him at the grocery store where he handed her nephew $20 and his signature note. Rose said it’s “amazing to see someone spread so much kindness … bringing joy to both adults and kids. … I feel like the note is a reminder that you have more love around you than you know. … A complete stranger took a minute to send you love and happiness.”

Mr. Hoolie’s generosity is deeply rooted in his life experiences. Reflecting on his earlier years that led to his military career, Mr. Hoolie said that at 17 years old, he quit school to join the Marines.

“They’re gonna draft me, so I’ll just go and sign up… I was gonna join the Army and jump out of airplanes, but they weren’t there – just the Marine Corps and the Navy,” he explained. With a laugh, he described himself as being “gung-ho.”

Throughout his 21 years of military service, Mr. Hoolie had various postings, including working on the president’s helicopters, serving in Vietnam and being stationed at Sand Point Naval Air Station that used to be in the Everett area. His final posting was at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, where he retired in 1972 and has called home since.

In speaking about his faith, Mr. Hoolie said, “The good Lord looked out after me the whole time we were there, and I hadn’t been baptized or anything.”

He gave the example of a dud rocket hitting the bunk next door to him. “If it had gone off, I would’ve been killed because it was right there.”

“I never did get baptized until the late ‘60s, early ’70s,” Mr. Hoolie added. “I was lying in bed one morning and I heard this voice, in old English … and it was just four words: ‘Why does thou wait?’ And I knew immediately I need to get baptized, so I did.”

“My wife wanted to get baptized too,” he said.

Married in 1953, Mr. Hoolie and his wife, Clara Muehlhausen, shared 65 years together before her passing in 2019. Describing how their love story came to be, Mr. Hoolie said that he met his wife when they got set up together on a double date.

“She just squeezed my hand and she had me,” he said.

They had to put their love story on hold after just three dates because he received orders to go overseas for 18 months. When he had a long weekend, Mr. Hoolie called his cousin to get a message to her that “if she wants to get married, I’m ready. And she was, and we were, and we did.”

With a tender look, Mr. Hoolie said, “She was a good woman.”

Today, Mr. Hoolie often carries his Bible and a collection of photographs, each one telling a tale of his life. These photos feature his late wife Clara, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, military friends, his pond, tractors and cats. Always ready to share his stories, Mr. Hoolie welcomes anyone who wants to listen, spreading his message of love and kindness one story at a time.

“It’s like walking through a dark tunnel and then suddenly seeing a light. He shines incredibly bright in a world that’s so dim,” Rose said. “Mr. Hoolie’s message is incredible. I would love to see more of it spread around the island … that we need to look out for and take care of each other.”

Janessa Bates is a Whidbey Island resident and a journalism student at Western Washington University.

Mr. Hoolie holds a dandelion he plucked from his lawn. (Photo by Luisa Loi)

Mr. Hoolie holds a dandelion he plucked from his lawn. (Photo by Luisa Loi)

Mr. Hoolie hands out gifts to brighten days.

Mr. Hoolie hands out gifts to brighten days.