Mourners remember 5-year-old Maci Whisner who was born with half a heart


They came to the funeral home from everywhere, from all walks of life: grandparents, infants in baby carriers, teenage couples, schoolchildren in the shadow of their parents.

Dressed in t-shirts and dresses, hockey jerseys, work boots, caps and gowns, they paraded one by one past the child-sized pink coffin at the back of the room to pay homage to a five-year-old whose hearts had brought them together.

Maci Whisner, of Newark, died on September 19 after a long struggle with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She won the affection of the community from a young age as her mother, Karissa, recounted Maci’s life on her Facebook page, “Maci’s Mended Heart”. From heart-wrenching setbacks to monumental triumphs and even the seemingly mundane – which never felt trite if Maci was involved – his short life struck a chord with followers around the world, a selection of which stopped at Brucker. & Kishler Funeral Home in Newark Friday to say goodbye.

Sheryl French, of Utica, sits at Brucker & Kishler Funeral Home in Newark as people offer condolences to the family of Maci Renee Whisner, 5, on Friday, September 24, 2021. Maci, who was born with a half -heart, died on September 19.

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“I can’t believe how much a little girl made such an impact on the world”

“I can’t believe how a little girl made such an impact on the world,” said Jane Johnson of Utica, a teacher at the Happy Hearts Child Care Center in St. Louisville, where Sister’s younger sister was dating. Maci, Everly. Beth Swick, the owner of the center, had twisted 200 spectacle-eyed balloonfish that Johnson and her colleague Happy Hearts teacher Lori Broseus handed to the children who came to Maci’s call hours on Friday.

It was, by design, a casual affair – an opportunity for Maci fans to celebrate the life of a girl many of them loved without actually meeting. An occasional track from “Frozen” and “The Wiggles” played in the background to temper darker musical selections, and family members roamed freely in red t-shirts that wore a pair on the front. angel wings flanking Maci’s signature, and on the back, the hashtag #foreverfive.

The atmosphere was respectfully light; for every silent tear that fell in the long line of sympathizers, a friendly burst of laughter rang out from somewhere, a reminder of the contagious joy for which Maci was famous.

Shirts share love for Maci Whisner

Karissa Whisner had used her daughter’s Facebook page to encourage those who came to her calling hours to wear “something you think Maci would love.”

So from late Friday afternoon until nightfall, the reception room at Brucker & Kishler Funeral Home was filled with many pink, red, and various Maci shirts with different slogans:

“Half a heart, twice the fight.”

“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

“Believe in Boston.”

“Maci’s army.”

Leslie Smith, from Newark, arrived in a light blue t-shirt printed with all of Maci’s favorite things: Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig, and The Wiggles, among others. She had brought the Whisner family a dozen pink and purple frozen cupcakes as a nod to the moment 3-year-old Maci and Everly slipped cupcake frosting while Karissa was out of the room.

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Smith, a retired teacher and grandmother of three, followed Maci’s journey from the start and has even had the opportunity to meet her a few times. Karissa, she said, “is a most fabulous mother,” and by following her messages, Smith has grown in ways she never expected.

“She helped me get over the death of my parents,” Smith said.

“Pieces of Maci’s Heart”

In the second row of seats, Karissa’s cousin, Amanda Scianna, sat on the floor with her niece Alexis Gildenmeister, a row of Maci’s pillowcases spread out on the chairs in front of them. Scianna neatly folded the pillow cases – princesses, flowers, Curious George – and cut them into little hearts to hand out to guests: “Pieces of Maci’s heart,” Scianna explained.

8-year-old Gildenmeister was happy to have the opportunity to spread the joy like Maci did.

“I love her and she will always be with me,” she said.

The Whisners decided to live stream the calling times for Maci fans who couldn’t be there in person, and as the video rolled around hundreds of supporting comments poured in from all over. the country :

Live broadcast of calling times draws commentary from across the country

“What an incredible way to honor such an incredible little girl. Look at the lives of everyone she touched.

“Goodbye my sweet girl. I cried for days. Your impact on my heart has been enormous. I will never forget you and I will love my children very much today in your memory!

“Maci was the granddaughter I’ll never have. I loved her like mine. She taught me so much about love and happiness. May peace be with your family now.

In the front row, Karissa’s uncle, Joey Scianna, was sitting and watching people pass by to hug Karissa and Josh, who wore a tie made from one of his daughter’s pillowcases. Scianna had traveled to Newark from her Boston home, where the Whisners occasionally stayed when Maci underwent surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.

He talked about how Maci wowed people everywhere they went; the way his brother, Jake, 8, acted so bravely; how strong their whole family was for each other.

“She was a special spirit – she really was,” said Scianna, looking at the line of people in their different clothes with their different backgrounds and different stories that came together that night because of her great-niece of five years. “She has touched so many lives in such a short time.”


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