Back in 1990, Great Bend Tribune columnist Marge Harrington wrote about the Rev. Dick Ogle, a Barton County pastor who celebrated his 60th birthday by proving to himself he could still climb a 1,000-foot communication tower. A decade later, at age 70, he found himself participating in two cross-country mule rides.
More recently, we caught up with Ogle, now living in Hoisington, at the Great Bend Senior Center, where he eats lunch most weekdays. At 92 years old, Ogle is still active and he also has a lifetime of interesting stories to tell, such as the time he met Eleanor Roosevelt. More about that later.
92 years ago ...
Ogle was born during a blizzard in Bushnell, Ind., and his father chose to go into the Church of God ministry a short time later. “My father taught us that the ministry is the highest calling,” Ogle told Harrington.
His mother, Charlcie May Ogle, was also a clergywoman and pastored in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Washington, Indiana and Texas.
Ogle would later enter Anderson College (now Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana) to prepare himself for the ministry as well. He pastored churches in Fairbury, Neb., and Wabash, Ind., and was a traveling evangelist in Clarkston, Wash., on the Snake River before coming to Great Bend as pastor of the Church of God.
He started climbing communication towers in 1955, when the Wabash radio station needed to have bulbs changed. This led to a career that included building towers as well as climbing them. That same year, Ogle said, he went through a divorce, left the ministry for a time and went into the tower business.
He married Jan Hales in 1973 and moved to Great Bend. She died in 2016. Between them, the Ogles had 10 children.
His oldest son is a retired school teacher who lives in the Chicago area. His oldest daughter was in public relations for the University of Pennsylvania for several years and later started her own firm before retiring in Florida. Another daughter lives in South Carolina and is a high school counselor. Another son is in research and development and lives in Austin, Texas. Closer to home, one daughter, Marsha, is retired here in Great Bend and another daughter, Juli Reed, is an executive assistant for the district superintendent in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, for Kansas and Nebraska. She lives in Hoisington.
Meeting Eleanor Roosevelt
In his mid-20s, Ogle was attending Manchester College in northern Indiana and got to interview the former First Lady for a radio program.
“I was chosen because I was so good-looking,” he said. The station owner told him to interview Roosevelt and sent the sports editor to handle the recorder.
“We got there real early and we went into the auditorium but there wasn’t anybody there,” Ogle said. “And so just as a joke, I said to the guy that went with me, ‘I think I’ll just go back and visit with Mrs. Roosevelt since there’s no one here yet.’ And he said, ‘You couldn’t get within 10 feet of her.’”
Ogle saw someone near the stage who he assumed was with Secret Service and said, “My name is Dick Ogle. Tell Mrs. Roosevelt that I’m here and I’d like to visit with her a little bit.' He went back, came out and he said, ‘Yes she would like to visit with you; come on in.' And I visited with her for about 30 minutes.”
Ogle recalled that Roosevelt was a gracious woman. But he wasn’t prepared for the radio interview that came later.
He and the sports editor got lost on the way to the press conference scheduled after her speech and arrived late.
“When we walked in the door, Mrs. Roosevelt got up and came to the door. And she said, ‘Dick, I’m so glad you made it. I’ve saved a place for you right up here beside me.’”
His partner set up the tape recorder as the news conference began, but Ogle claims he wasn’t smart enough to question Roosevelt about world events. However, other reporters who were there making a newsreel asked some great questions.
“I recorded all of that. And when she finally left, she got up and she came over to me and she said, ‘Now, I have really enjoyed you.’ And she said, ‘if you’re ever in New York City, there is no need for you to spend money on motels or hotels. You can come by our home and there’ll be a place for you.’ Well, I figured she was just being gracious. I never did take her up on that.”
Back at the radio station, Ogle edited the tape, blocking out the other reporters’ voices and inserting their “real smart questions” in his own voice.
A one-eyed Jack
Fast forward to his life in Barton County. Dick and Jan Ogle lived in Great Bend’s Quail Creek addition and later lived south of Hoisington in “what they used to call the Childs House. I lived there for 20 years and it never did get to be ‘Dick Ogle’s House.’ I think Bob Childs had a furniture store here. It was kind of a showplace. But Jan always wanted to live on a farm and so after we lived out there about 20 years and the kids were all gone, we bought 160 acres west of there about 6 miles and we raised goats, llamas, horses, mules ... everything. Just to kind of play at farming.”
He hoped to breed mules but found out it was harder than it looks.
“I bought six broodmares and a Jack and I was going to raise mules,” he said. “But instead they beat up on him so bad that they knocked one of his eyes out.”
He never was able to raise mules but he did ride that mule when he joined a Santa Fe Trail Ride from Marian to Larned. He did that for two years, around his 70th birthday.
Dick Ogle today
After Ogle shared his story about Eleanor Roosevelt, we returned to the Great Bend Senior Center to learn more about what he’s doing nowadays.
“Well, this is where the great minds are, every noon. So I eat here every day, not just because it’s cheap, but because the great minds that made Great Bend and Barton County what they are today are down here,” he said.
“I tell people there are two things I know how to do, and that’s to preach and build towers,” he said. He still owns a tower near Russell that he rents — and he climbs it when needed.
Ogle pastored at the First Church of God on Baker Avenue in Great Bend for 30 years. He retired when he was 70 but continued to minister to prisoners in the Barton County Jail and at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility as a clinical chaplain.
“Then, after I retired from there, I got restless and I bought the First Street Church of God up in Hoisington and started another congregation there. I pastored there until just a couple of years ago. A couple of the fellows that attended there are doing the preaching there now – Dennis Morrison and Jody Messersmith.”
Morrison recalls that when he and his wife were looking for a church home, they struggled because their four children were young and would draw disapproving looks from people in other churches. One day they got in a vehicle and drove to Ogle’s service in Hoisington.
“During the sermon, a young lady stood up to remove her crying baby. Brother Dick stopped preaching and said, ‘Don’t you take that baby out. You sit down; that baby needs to be here. I have a loud voice and if the baby cries I can talk louder.”
Ogle presided over the marriage of Morrison’s parents and later married Morrison and his wife.
“I have so many stories I can tell about Brother Dick; his love for Jesus and his reflection of Jesus’s love have been an inspiration to me as I move into ministry myself," Morrison said.
Ogle seems to be taking things easy these days, although he’d still rather climb his communication tower himself than pay someone else to do it. He manages some rental property and manages 600 acres of land that he owns. And he’d like to marry again.
“Jan’s been dead for about six years now and I’m looking for a wife. I still have a lot of life before me at 92, I figure. My mother lived to be 103.” He said he’s gone on some dates with women he’s met at the Senior Center. “But I won’t date anybody under 65 unless they’ve got a letter from their mother. So far, I don’t seem to have the appeal that I did when I was younger, but that’s all right.”
Community Connections is a regular feature of the Great Bend Tribune, showcasing people who live in the Golden Belt. We welcome readers to submit names of individuals who are active in the community that they would like to see featured in a future story. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and explain their “community connections.”