Ernest P. Heppner, 77, of Riverhead, passed away peacefully at the Riverhead Care Center on Sept. 25, 2010, with his family at his side.
Lovingly known to his family and friends as Hoppy, he was born on Dec. 28, 1932, in Erie, Pa., to German immigrants Paul and Hedwig Heppner, who then settled in Buffalo, N.Y. After completing high school, he joined the United States Air Force. While stationed in Westhampton, he met his future bride, Joan White, whom he married on July 24, 1955.
Ernie was a devoted family man and a hard worker, and he loved his community and church. He was devoted to St. Isidore R.C. Church and school, serving as president of St. Isidore’s Parents Club and chairman of the church barbecue. His love for his community was always evident. He was a den leader for Cub Scout Pack 47, helped his wife with Brownies and Girl Scouts and was a 4-H instructor for Cornell Cooperative Extension.
His love for the firematic service was extensive. Joining the Riverhead Fire Department in 1967, Ernie served as captain of Fire Police and Patrol Co. 1 and was an elected member of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Riverhead Fire District from 1982 to 1992, also serving as chairman. His service continued as a director of archives for the Brookhaven Town Volunteer Firefighters Museum, secretary of the North Fork Firemen’s Association, member of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, member of The Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, director of the Riverhead Fire Department Junior Ironmen Racing Team and member of the North Fork Fire Police.
Air shows, camping and woodworking were his passions, and he was able to have time to enjoy them immensely, especially after retiring from Brookhaven National Laboratory. He was an active member of the NRA. Ernie loved watching his children and grandchildren at sporting events, and his pride for them always shone through.
Ernie is survived by his loving wife of 55 years, Joan, along with their children, Mark and wife, Karen, of Aquebogue; Gregory, of Riverhead; Lynn Carey and husband, Edward, of Riverhead; and son-in-law Daniel Cushing of Cobb Island, Md. He was predeceased by two children, Ernest Jr. and Nancy Heppner-Cushing. Grandchildren Matthew, Jeffrey and Anthony Heppner and Janelle and Logann Carey will miss him dearly. He is also survived by his sister, Irma, and brother-in-law, James Barry, and nieces and nephews, of West Seneca, N.Y.
Visiting hours were held Sept. 28 at McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead. On Sept. 29, a firematic funeral commenced at the funeral home with a march to St. Isidore R.C. Church for a Mass of Christian Burial by Father Robert Kuznik. A motorcade proceeded to St. John’s Cemetery, where representatives of the U.S. Air Force were present for military honors, with his son-in-law Daniel Cushing (retired USAF) presenting the flag. He was laid to rest next to his son.
Contributions in Ernie’s memory may be made to the St. Isidore Church Capital Campaign Fund.