Zern M. Hiner, from the 1921 Purdue University "Debris" Yearbook.
Following on the heels of yesterday's profile on U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Allingham Burks Summers, another oddly named diplomat joins the ranks of the "Strangest Names In American Political History", one Zern Mitchell Hiner of Indiana. Despite his lack of years (he died aged 41 in 1940) Mr. Hiner was tapped to serve as U.S. Vice Consul in Ottawa, Canada in the early 1930s, later being transferred to Riga, Latvia to serve in the same post.
While information regarding Mr. Hiner remains scant at best, it is known that he was born in Peru, Indiana on May 12, 1899, a son of John and Carolina Emma Zern Hiner. Inheriting his odd first name from his mother's maiden name, Zern M. Hiner was a veteran of the First World War and following his service was a student at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, being a member of the school Agricultural Society. He graduated from that university in 1921 and would be employed as a stenographer, book department manager, and accountant after leaving Purdue.
In 1931, Hiner, then barely into his thirties, was appointed as clerk in the District Accounting and Disbursing Office in Ottawa. In November of that year he was promoted to assistant district accountant and disbursing officer in Ottawa, and in January 1932 advanced to U.S. Vice Consul at Ottawa. Hiner remained in Ottawa until 1938, whereafter he was transferred to Riga, Latvia, where he continued service as clerk and U.S. Vice Consul. He remained in Riga until his death on June 3, 1940, just a few weeks after his 41st birthday. Death was attributed to peritonitis and Hiner's funeral arrangements were "conducted at the American legation at Riga."
A few days following his death Zern Hiner's body was returned to the United States for burial, which took place at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Peru, Indiana. Hiner was survived by his mother and sister Harriet (1898-1989), the former dying a few months after her son in July 1940.