17 Mar 2023

In Loving Memory of Mr. Gene Hogberg

On Friday, March 10th, the Church of God lost a truly special individual: Gene Hogberg.

Gene Hogberg was born October 7, 1937 on the south side of Chicago, Illinois to Swedish immigrants, Henry and Ruth Hogberg. His father was a painter for the Pullman Railroad Company and his mother a housewife. He had a very sweet and inquisitive nature as a boy and loved sports, trolleys and all things Swedish. Tragedy struck him at the age of 13 when he contracted polio and was hospitalized for nearly 6 months. Though he lost the muscle in one leg, he considered himself fortunate and his focus shifted to more academic and serious matters.

During a year of junior college, he heard the thundering voice of Mr. Herbert Armstrong addressing the prophecies of how New York and London would someday face the same fate as Tyre and Sidon. He applied and went out to Pasadena without ever even attending a church service first in Chicago. Beginning Ambassador College in 1956, he was there at the beginning of explosive growth for the church and college. His natural interests in history, the Bible, and world events, led him to help establish a News Bureau to assist the Armstrongs and other church writers with research showing international societal trends that would eventually lead to the collapse of our society and the end of the present age if nations did not turn towards God. Though sent out after graduation as a ministerial trainee, he was rushed back to headquarters to get his Master’s degree in theology, develop the News Bureau, write for the Plain Truth and begin teaching at Ambassador College.

He met a teacher and college graduate of Texas State College in College Station, Texas, Barbara Ruth Sipe, when she decided to attend Ambassador College. She was later assigned as his secretary in the News Bureau. Gene fell in love with her magnetic smile and one-of-a-kind effervescence and they were married on January 23, 1966. Sons Neal Hamilton and Derek William soon followed. Mr. Hogberg thoroughly enjoyed teaching International Relations and Geography classes at the three Ambassador College campuses, while also carving out time to teach public speech in Ambassador Clubs. Any congregation or festival site he attended was packed with generations of former students, including the majority of the men who had been called to serve in the ministry.

The sheer quantity of Mr. Gene Hogberg’s writing was amazing, with the number of his articles, editorials and booklets numbering in the thousands. As the World News Editor, he regularly wrote the cover article for the Plain Truth magazine that was read by nearly 20 million people every month, and also the “Worldwatch” column in Worldwide News for brethren. He also assisted the sermons of a burgeoning ministry by teaching numerous ministerial refresher classes and writing the “World News and Trends” supplements in the Pastor General’s Report. The highly requested church booklets “Russia and China In Prophecy” and “The Modern Romans” were also penned by his hand. Mr. Hogberg also trained and managed News Bureau staff in Pasadena, Washington D.D., Bricket Wood, U.K. and Brussels, Belgium. The men he carefully mentored developed into the writers that formed the backbone of what became the editorial arm of God’s work. Mr. Hogberg was no stranger to travel, having visited more than eighty countries doing research and interviews for the magazine and World Tomorrow television program, which he combined with preaching to congregations on nearly every continent.

Later, along with his wife Barbara, he was given the great privilege to travel with and assist Mr. Herbert Armstrong on lengthy trips to Europe, Africa and the Middle East to meet with world leaders, royalty and presidents and proclaim the good news of God’s coming kingdom. Even with his often grueling travel schedule, Mr. Hogberg never slipped in his demanding writing duties. Knowing his outstanding dedication, Mr. Armstrong sent him a treasured note recognizing Mr. Hogberg’s “conscientious service far above what is required as a profitable servant of God.”

To the end, Mr. Hogberg was guiding, training and teaching, and his final public act in God’s service was the lay on of hands during the baptism of his granddaughter Chloe.

Gene Hogberg meant so much to so many. Below are statements from just a few of the individuals he touched during his lifetime:

Daniel Russo (Board Chairman, Church of God Network):

Mr. Hogberg was a personal friend of mine. My family and I had known him and his wife, Barbara, for years having attended the Feast of Tabernacles with them consistently. They both were two of the most humble and unpretentious people I’ve ever met. I truly looked up to Mr. Hogberg and always appreciated how he made time to engage my brother and I regardless of our youth. I remember two events particularly fondly. One was watching a presidential debate with him in my late teens – quite a fascinating experience given Mr. Hogberg’s work for the Worldwide News! The second event was at the Feast in Branson in 2020. A group of us wanted to host a BBQ for brethren from across all of the Church organizations that had Feast sites in Branson. We wound up having over 50 brethren at our Feast house including Mr. Hogberg. He was so encouraged and excited to see brethren fellowshipping across groups. As always, he engaged with everyone there regardless of age. Sadly, that was the last time I was able to see Mr. Hogberg in person, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know him. I look forward to seeing him again in God’s Kingdom!

Brian Orchard (Pastor – The Father’s Call)

When I came into the Church as a young man, Gene Hogberg was instrumental in helping me connect current affairs with biblical prophecy. Later during the early days of being a minister I looked forward to receiving his news analysis reports.

He was particularly insightful in regard to Europe and the Habsburg dynasty in particular. My first real understanding of the importance of the development of the European Community (EC as it was first called) came through Gene’s writing. The News Bureau in the days of the Worldwide Church of God helped support the information in both the World Tomorrow television program and the Plain Truth magazine.

Gene was a fine man on every level and an asset to God’s work over a very long time.

Aaron Dean (United Church of God, Council of Elders member): 

Gene and Barbara Hogberg were good friends of Michelle and I . We last saw them in Texas at Anne Elliot‘s house where we reminisced about traveling together with Mr. Armstrong. They traveled with us to areas where it would be valuable for him to be in on the meetings to write for the plain truth. I remember being in Egypt to meet Mubarak. Michelle and barbara rode a camel. Barbara’s heal stuck the back of the camel so it jumped almost throwing them off. Gene and I laughed. We went onto Israel, or we met with the Prime Minister and other officials.

We went to Belgium, where HWA and Gene talked with Otto von Habsburg at The Hague. Later he visited Pasadena and talked with Students.

We were riding to the hotel in London, when I saw a beautiful Cinderella dress in the shop window. I told him Michelle would look good in that. Since Michelle was the same size as the mannikins, it was easier to buy stuff for her. When we left a couple days later, we drove by the same shop Gene saw the naked manikin, and said, “you didn’t did you”. I smiled and said yes, he got a good laugh.

He was a good man and we will miss him.

Craig White (Church of God Historian)

Mr Hogberg’s research, writing and world news analysis for the Church of God and wider audiences were among the best and most interesting anyone could read. The books he referred to were great to follow up and helped one to research further and come to an in-depth understanding of world events (geo-politics, economic, social) in the light of Bible prophecy.

I always looked forward to his regular feature articles in the Worldwide News and other publications and they were influential in crafting or developing my own ideology and understanding of geo-politics. He was such a humble and gifted man who used his God-given talents in service to others – let us continue that legacy.

Vic Kubik (Retired President of the United Church of God)

The passing of Gene Hogberg was sobering to us. We had become fond of him and his wife Barbara when we were in the pastoral ministry and when I worked at Headquarters in Pasadena.

He was gifted in analyzing macro events in the world that made it easy for anyone in our culture to understand and appreciate. He analyzed world news and made it clear. He was careful with his words and never exuded supremacy or racism. When I started in the ministry in 1969, his report was sent weekly to all the ministry to be used as a resource in sermons and Bible studies.

He and his wife visited us in Minneapolis on one occasion and we drove them up to Orr, Minnesota to see our church youth camp in session. The conversation on the drive was filled with wonder about Minnesota, the people, the iron ore mines and Lake Superior. We bought some pickled white fish and brought it back to Minneapolis where we made a meal of all of us picking away at it mixed with animated conversation.

Yes, he will be missed because he was so right for the work that he did in the many articles and newsletters that he wrote. He and his wife were also good friends and we will forever remember them as Christians, people of culture and a fountain of understanding.

Carmine Russo (Minister, CGN Board Member):

Gene Hogberg was an unusual man. Unusually kind, unusually considerate, and unusually dedicated to the Work of God. His position as World News Editor for the Plain Truth magazine and his regular column in the church newsletter gave him a notoriety that few in the church could claim. I never missed an article that he penned.

I first met Mr. Hogberg at a Feast about 25 years ago. That year on the first day of the Feast I saw him from a distance and thought, “wow, that’s Gene Hogberg!” The next morning and went down for breakfast to find dining room was empty except for Mr. Hogberg. As soon as he saw me he beckoned for me to join him. This breakfast fellowship occurred several times that Feast. Fortunately, my wife and I would be given the opportunity to spend many Feasts with Gene and his dear wife Barbara in Maine. Each year renewing our friendship over dinner.

His unassuming personality and gentle nature was an unusual gift for a man of his talents. I so appreciated Gene’s willingness to extend himself to my sons. At a time in Church history when there were few role models for my boys, Gene Hogberg was there for them. That connection continued and matured as my boys grew into manhood. What a gift for them to have known him in the way they did. Our family looks forward to seeing Gene and Barbara together again. We look forward to sharing a meal with them in God’s Kingdom.

Gene Hogberg was an unusual man who will be missed in an unusual way!

Rod Reynolds (Pastor, Church of God Messenger):

My wife and I always appreciated Mr. Hogberg’s insights in his column regarding news events in the weekly updates we received when we were serving in the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God. When we were living in Poplar Bluff, MO, serving in that area, Mr. Hogberg and his wife visited our home, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We thought a lot of him, and wish to express condolences to his family and all who loved him.