Jim and Donna Mueller were on a trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary when they were killed by a lightning strike Thursday night outside the White House.
"They were a very loving couple," said the Muellers' niece, Michelle McNett, of Janesville. "They were very, very family oriented. I think everyone's just in shock right now and kind of request privacy."
She said the couple had five children, plus 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
McNett said Donna, 75, was a teacher and, in her retirement, worked at the Comfort Shoppe, a local furniture store. Jim, 76, was a retired contractor who had his own drywall business.
She said she's not sure why they picked the nation's capital for their vacation, but added, "Donna was a constant learner."
The couple had planned to go to Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington's historic home 13 miles south of Washington on Friday.
The couple were high school sweethearts who grew up in Cuba City, 65 miles southwest of Madison, and graduated from Cuba City High School, McNett said. They moved to Janesville when Jim got a job there.
They are survived by a daughter, Michelle, Brookfield; and sons Maurie, Oregon, Wisconsin; Mark, Janesville; Matt, Columbus, Ohio; and Mitch, Texas.
McNett said the couple loved having gatherings and just had a big family gathering a couple of weeks ago.
"They were very religious," she said. "Just the kind of people who would give the shirt off their back to do anything for you, both of them."
The Muellers died of their injuries after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
Two other people, a man and a woman, also were struck and were in critical condition Thursday, the police department said. Their identities were not immediately released.
"We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives."
A severe thunderstorm hit the D.C. region around 7 p.m. Thursday.
The victims were riding out the storm under a tree, according to a law enforcement source, CNN reported.
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