Lifelong Sonora resident Louis "Louie" Njirich passed away peacefully on Oct. 22 at the age of 93.
Louie was the youngest of nine children born to Nick and Katherine (Lubisich) Njirich, who immigrated from Austria (now Croatia) to Columbia at the turn of the 20th century. Louie was raised on the family ranch in Columbia off of Sawmill Flat Road. He was one of the last members of elementary school children who attended the historic Columbia Grammar School - now a part of Columbia State Park - before it closed in 1937. Louie graduated from Sonora High School in 1946 and joined the Air Force after his graduation, where he served for three years. After his discharge in 1949, he returned to Sonora, where he lived the remainder of his life.
During his life, Louie had a variety of jobs. One of his first jobs as a boy was washing dishes at the Gem Cafe for $0.35 an hour. Apparently he was a good worker because he received a raise to $.50 an hour after a short time. After his discharge from the Air Force, his many jobs included driving a school bus, working for Merrihew's Auto, Kelley (now Sierra) Motors, delivering milk for Mother Lode Dairy and Mountain View Dairy, and driving and delivering for Granny Goose. He managed McCoy Tire, where he worked with Joe Francis, and in 1977 he and Joe bought Doherty Tire in Standard, which he owned and operated until his retirement in 1998.
Louie was a lifelong Oakland Raider fan and held season tickets for several years until the team moved to Los Angeles. He and his wife, Carol, along with two other couples, bought a 1958 Chrysler touring car that they refurbished, which became known around town as the Raidermobile. The car was driven to many Raider games and always garnered much interest in the Coliseum parking lot, with some fans asking him if he was Al Davis. He and Carol enjoyed traveling in their RV, visiting much of the country and western Canada with friends. He was a charter member of Sonora 49er Rotary and remained a member for several years, serving as president in 1983-84 and helping develop many service projects with the club.
Louie will be remembered by his family as a quietly generous man, someone always willing to buy a drink and spin a tale, which the listener could never be sure was grounded in reality because of his love of pulling people's legs. He often greeted people with "What do YOU want?" He enjoyed his extended family and was very proud of his granddaughters and great-grandchildren, always ready to brag of their accomplishments great and small.
Louie was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Carol, and his five brothers, Tony, John, Frank, Fred and George, and three sisters, Mae, Eleanor and Annie. He is survived by his three children, David (Sue) Njirich, Lynne Njirich and Jan (Bob) Apland; granddaughters Abby (Steve) Sunday, Robyn (Jerimie) Zamora, Vanessa (Cody) Butler and Kayla (Matt) Hawks; and great-grandchildren Marissa and Antone Sunday, Brayden and Jace Zamora, Easton and Hudson Butler, and Ryan and Haisley Hawks. He is also survived by his large extended family of nieces and nephews spanning four generations. A memorial celebration of life will be held at the Sonora Elks Lodge at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. The family requests that any remembrances be made to a favorite charity
Published by Sonora Union Democrat from Nov. 5 to Nov. 6, 2021.