Hirni leaves indelible legacy as Exeter local

In his lifetime, Mickey Hirni was the former president of the Exeter Lions Club, Lion of the Year, King of Brewfest, Master of Masonic Lodge 316 in Sanger, former school board member and founding member of Exeter Mural Committee.

Exeter commemorates the legacy of recently deceased Mickey Hirni for his long-lasting contributions to the community

EXETER – The community recently came together to celebrate the life and legacy of beloved local figure Mickey Hirni, a lion-hearted leader known for his roaring contributions and years of service who passed away at the age of 89.

On June 13, the community flooded the Exeter Cemetery to celebrate the life of one of its most beloved community members Mickey Hirni. Cars lined the streets within and around the cemetery to honor the many years of service Hirni gave to his family and community.

Hirni, who passed away on June 6 at the age of 89, held many community titles throughout the years. These titles include former president of the Exeter Lions Club, Lion of the Year, King of Brewfest, Master of Masonic Lodge 316 in Sanger, former school board member and founding member of Exeter Mural Committee.

Because of his years of extensive work in the community, many residents, business owners and community leaders were quick to sing Hirni’s praises. Current president of the Exeter Lions Club Andrew Rodriguez explained that many of the town’s events and traditions continue because of Mickey’s influence.

“A lot of the things that we do now, like Brew Fest, Mickey has been a huge part of all those things. The brew fest meetings that we have are all held at Mickey’s office,” Rodriguez said.

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Mickey Hirni passed away on June 6 at 89 years old, leaving behind a long-lasting legacy following years of his impacts on the community of Exeter.

He continued to explain how much wisdom and kindness Hirni went out of his way to share.

“When I first was elected president, there was a conversation that Mickey and I had…He gave advice, he taught me a little bit about the past presidents and what it meant to be a lion – especially in this community, where we support each other,” Rodriguez said. “He was just a very, very kind person.”

Exeter City Manager Adam Ennis recounted how one of his first duties as city manager was to join the mural committee, which was partially founded by Hirni.

“There are people that have been around here for a long time and are a big part of the community, and Mickey was one of those,” Ennis said.

Owner of Exeter Coffee Co. Staci Welch noted how active Hirni was at the local schools and how he supported the sports teams.

“He was a staple in this town. He never missed a sporting event from the high school. He was just incredibly supportive of the whole school system,” Welchs said. “We loved him.”

Patty Spott from the Exeter Lions club also explained some of the ways he supported the local sports teams. She noted his help with starting and organizing the Lions Club All Star Committee, which would pick an athlete of the month from the local sports teams.

“He was definitely the rock of our Lions organization. I think he’s the longest member in our organization,” Spott said. “He was just always there and always volunteering for everything.” 

Hirni’s great niece, Erica Pine, also explained how her uncle’s work in the community left a lasting impact on many people including herself.

“I have a similar heart for Exeter. I probably got mine from his influence. (Mickey) and my grandmother love Exeter and family, so that is what they preached to us growing up,” Pine said. “So put the effort into your family and community and all will be right.”

When she looks back at some of her favorite childhood memories, Pine said she can see the part her uncle had as one of the people who made them happen. She recounted thinking how magical the fourth of July fireworks were every year as a child. Now that she is older, she understands that the event is organized and put on by the Lions club.

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Mickey and Wilma Hirni with their great-grandchildren: (left to right) Molly Sario, Joan Longcrier, Mickey Hirni, Clark Longcrier, Wilma Hirni, Gwen Longcried, Charlie Talley, Helen Longcrier and William Sario.

“As a kid, you don’t think about the effort that’s put into events. You just experience the magic. As you get older, you realize there’s a lot of work that goes into these magical moments,” Pine said.

Pine explained that those experiences are what led her to get more active in the community herself, so that she could continue to provide those moments for her children as well.

On top of his many roles in the community, Hirni was very proud of his marriage and family. Pine recalled how her family used to have Thanksgiving every year at a cabin in Heartland.

“As the family has expanded, there’ll be 50 people at this cabin, and we play a game of softball. And it’s a place of joy for all of us, for him. He just loved it,” Pine said.

Hirni was born the youngest of three kids and according to Pine, remained close to the kids and grandkids of his older sisters.

“Now as an adult, I know that it’s more rare for that big of a family to stay so close. But him (Mickey) and my grandma were the reason for that,” Pine said.

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An old photo of Mickey Hirni and his wife Wilma. The couple eloped to San Francisco together on June 8th, 1957, and June 15 of this year marked their 68th wedding anniversary.

According to his obituary, Mickey eloped to San Francisco with Wilma Webster Hirni on June 8th, 1957. Saturday, June 15, would have marked their 68th wedding anniversary.

Together, they raised three children: Marlene and Bill Sario, Karrie and Dan Crookham, and Mark and Nicole Hirni. His family continued to grow with nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom brought immense joy to his life.

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