As newly appointed judge Stoney Hiljus prepares to preside, he knows he can't avoid questions about his unusual first name.
Your honor, is that your real name? And were you really named after a television show?
Stoney Hiljus is one of at least 30 Stoneys supposedly named after "Stoney Burke," a short-lived TV series about a rodeo rider, and he has heard the questions for most of his 42 years. But now that the Coon Rapids city attorney has been appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to be a judge in Minnesota's 10th Judicial District, he's leaving no Stoney unturned.
"I wouldn't say my mom was a big fan" of the show, Hiljus said. "She just liked the name.
"People tell me my parents must have been hippies. By no means at all were my parents hippies. The name Stoney has nothing to do with '60s culture."
"Stoney Burke" doesn't even qualify as a cultural curiosity. ABC's black-and-white series starring Jack Lord -- better known for his role as Steve McGarrett in "Hawaii Five-0" -- ran from Oct. 1, 1962 to May 20, 1963. It was not renewed after its lone season.
Hiljus, who will be Kanabec County's lone judge at the Mora courthouse, says he's never seen an entire episode of "Stoney Burke." That apparently doesn't make him much different from people who were around during the show's brief run. At least he's seen snippets on the Internet. He says he's used parts of the show for a Powerpoint presentation.
Hiljus and his wife, Beth, have given their children the more traditional names of Garrett, Jenna and Grace. Sorry, no Rockys or Pebbles for the Hiljus family.
But if your name is Stoney, there is a world out there to explore. Hiljus says he's found a Facebook page devoted to folks named Stoney.
Stone Phillips, Oliver Stone, Sly Stone, Joss Stone and the Rolling Stones don't qualify.
According to their Facebook postings, Stoney Meagher, Stoney Sherrill and Stoney Strange were all named after Stoney Burke.
Stoney Smith says he's been called Stonewall, Stoney Baloney and Stanley. Stoney Lawson says he's been called Stormy, Rocky, Pebbles, Tony and Smokey. Stoney Stone has been called the Stone-Meister-General.
Stoney Lewis Confer wonders how many Stoneys are crazy. Stoney Hill has been called Stoner, but says he doesn't smoke.
Stoney Smith writes that during his first day of college, he was asked, "So do you like to get stoned or something?" He adds, "No, but apparently my parents did."
The silly comments, stories and legends might be enough to sink a lesser mortal like a stone, but not the Stoneys. From childhood in Cambridge, Minn., to Minnesota State in Mankato, to law school at Hamline, Hiljus has always been just a you-know-what's throw away from the next bad pun.
But if there's justice in this world for the Stoneys, the judge appointed earlier this month will find it.
Hiljus served five years as the Coon Rapids city attorney. Before that, he was city administrator and a council member in Cambridge. He also worked as chief deputy in the Isanti County Attorney's office and as director of legal services for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He also served on the Anoka County Domestic Violent Task Force.
The "Stoney Burke" TV show was about a cowboy who hoped to win the golden championship buckle. The man who will wield the golden gavel hopes to make a name for himself in court.
"Sometimes it's nice to be different," Hiljus said. "It's awkward when everyone asks if that's your real name.
"But people do remember it."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419