George E. Ogle

January 17th, 1929November 15th, 2020

George E. Ogle passed away on November 15, at the age of 91 in his retirement community of Lafayette, Colorado. He was born January 17, 1929, in Pitcairn, Pennsylvania, the fourth of the six children of Chalmer Trustin Ogle and Bernice Yothers Ogle. His siblings - Wilford, Boyd, Barbara Ogle Warner, Maxine Ogle Stewart, and Stuart - all predeceased him.

George graduated from Maryville College in 1951 and Duke Divinity School in 1954. After graduation from Duke, he was ordained as a minister in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which later joined with the Methodists to become the United Methodist Church. That same year, he went to post-war South Korea where he taught English and worked for three years with youth in the Korean Methodist Church.

Realizing that Korea was beginning its industrial revolution, George decided he would like to become a lifetime missionary working with the Korean church in its ministry to laborers who were flocking to the cities for jobs. To prepare for this new ministry, he returned to the US in 1957 and studied in Chicago while serving as pastor at an inner-city storefront church which was part of the ecumenical Westside Christian Parish.

While in Chicago, George met Dorothy Lindman who was working as a public health nurse for the Chicago Infant Welfare Society at a clinic close to the parish. They were married May 9, 1959. After one semester at Garrett Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, they left by train for San Francisco and by freighter for a month-long trip across the Pacific Ocean to South Korea. 

George and Dorothy did a year of language study at Yonsei University in Seoul and were then assigned by the Korean bishop to live and work in the industrial port city of Incheon. All four of their children (Martin Chalmer, Kathy Ailene, Karen Marie, and Kristine Naomi) were born in Korea.

George and Korean colleagues founded the Incheon Urban Industrial Mission (UIM), and the Ogle family lived in a small Korean house in the center of the city. Often, the office desk had to be taken outside so a committee of local pastors could have its planning meetings, sitting in a circle of cushions on the warm floor. For the first ten years of the UIM, George and three Korean pastors were the main staff. Two took jobs in factories, and one was a day laborer on the docks. George served as a chaplain for a steel mill and rail car shop. Over the next decade, they ran educational programs for workers and accompanied them in their struggle for justice and respect.

During these early years of UIM, the Republic of Korea still had the democratic constitution put in place at its establishment. But then, the military came to power in a 1961 coup. General Park Chung-Hee became President of South Korea in 1963, and the South Korean government became a military dictatorship. Plans began for an “economic miracle” at the expense of the workers. They used the state of war and the national security law to take over all areas of society and crush all criticism, falsely accusing dissidents of being “communists.”

In 1971, when it was time for the Ogle family to go on furlough, George felt the time had come to turn over the leadership of the UIM completely to the Koreans. The Ogles moved back to the US where George finished his PhD in International Industrial Relations at the University of Wisconsin. By the time he completed the degree in 1973, he had received an invitation to teach International Labor Relations at Seoul National University, so the Ogle family moved to Seoul for what they believed would be another five-year term.

Things had gotten worse in Korea, however. President Park had pushed through the Yushin Constitution which allowed him to rule for life and by decree. Many pastors, including many former UIM co-workers, were arrested for calling for the democratization of the country. George's classes were frequently cancelled because of student demonstrations. George began to attend some of the prayer meetings held by families of Christian prisoners. They asked him if he would speak and pray for eight men who had been sentenced to death after being falsely accused of leading a plot to overthrow the government. George prayed for them in a public prayer meeting and asked for open non-military trials. He was interrogated and deported from Korea on December 14, 1974. Dorothy and the children left the country to join him in the US in February 1975. [On April 9, 1975, the eight men were executed. Thirty-two years later, they were given a posthumous trial and were fully exonerated by a democratic Korean government.]

The Ogles received much support during their sudden transition from Korea to the United States. George was invited to teach at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, and church people equipped their new rental house with furniture. George taught at Candler from 1975 to 1981 and especially enjoyed supervising his students in their community service. During this time, he also wrote a book called Liberty to the Captives about the work of the UIM and about his deportation.

The Ogle family moved to DC and, from 1981 to 1991, George was the Director of the Department of Social and Economic Justice for the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. In this job he was able to support various social movements including the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez. He made his first post-deportation visit to South Korea in 1984 when he was invited to speak at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Korean Church. George also wrote about the Korean labor movement in his book, South Korea: Dissent within the Economic Miracle (Zed Press: 1990).

In 1991, George was given a post-retirement appointment to the Illinois Conference of Churches where he became the Director of Illinois IMPACT, the public policy arm of the Illinois Conference of Churches. With the help of Dorothy and many volunteers he spent those last working years educating church people statewide and advocating on issues ranging from progressive tax reform to universal health care.

Though George’s employment focused on domestic justice issues, he continued to call for and write about democracy in Korea. In 1987, an extraordinary mass demonstration in every city of South Korea led to a peaceful transition and democratic elections. George visited South Korea six more times over the years, with highlights including invitations to the 1998 inauguration of President Kim Dae-Jung and the 1999 opening of Democracy Park in Pusan.

George and Dorothy also joined South Koreans in their effort to bring about a formal end to the Korean War and reconciliation with brothers and sisters in the North. In 1995 George joined with Korean-American peace activists in a visit to North Korea. And in 1995 and 1996, he travelled to Russia with Amnesty International to serve as an interpreter with undocumented North Korean refugees there. In 2002, George and Dorothy made their last trip to South Korea. They were escorted on a countrywide tour, and George received a Human Rights Award from the Korea Democracy Foundation founded by President Kim Dae-Jung.

In the early part of retirement in Springfield, Illinois, George tutored children, collected bread for food banks, took classes, and began to write poetry and fiction as well as historical fiction. He and Dorothy then moved to Marietta, Georgia, and delighted in spending time with their first grandchildren. George ran, swam, did a lot of gardening, and always enjoyed a good hike. He climbed Long’s Peak at 65 and trekked up and down the Grand Canyon at 70.

The last eighteen years of his life were lived in Lafayette, Colorado, where three of his children and all six grandchildren live now. George was an officer in the Lafayette Historical Society, volunteered at the Lafayette Miners Museum, and wrote historical fiction about Colorado coal miners. In 2012, George and Dorothy published their memoirs: Our Lives in Korea and Korea in Our Lives, combining personal history with observations about Korea and its struggle for peace and democracy. It is George and Dorothy's great hope that the United States will someday allow the self-determination of 80 million people and lend its support to a peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

Most of all, George gave his life to being a loving husband, father, and grandfather. George is remembered with great affection for his kindness, compassion, and humor and for living even in the last years of Parkinson’s with dignity and gratitude. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Lindman Ogle; his four children, Martin (Lisa Schwartz Ogle), Kathy (Charles Askins), Karen (Paul Fohrman), and Kristine; and by his six grandchildren, Maya and Simone Fohrman, Noah and Lucas Davis, and Cyrus and Linnea Ogle.

 

Cemetery

Louisville Cemetery | Map

Location

None

Church

First United Methodist Church of Boulder | Map

Condolences

So very sorry to learn of George's passing. Although I did not know him well, my family, especially my parents Channing and Popai, were very familiar with his courageous support of Korean workers and the Korean people's fight for independence and reunification. George and Dorothy have been an inspiration to the Korean peace and justice movement here and abroad and will cotinue to be so among those who follow in their footsteps. RIP Reverend Ogle. Ramsay Liem
We, at the Korea Policy Institute, are saddened to hear of George's passing. He was truly a friend of the Korean people and an exemplary American peace activist. It was a great honor to meet George at our KPI conference at UCLA some years ago. He will be sorely missed. To all his loved ones, especially Dorothy, please accept our sincere condolences. - Paul Liem, KPI
Our Korean churches, Christians, and even the people know well about the life of the late Pastor George Ogle, who prayed for Korea's democratization and unification and continued his efforts despite persecution. We will remember his devotion and sacrifice forever. May God comfort his family and friends. Reverend, rest in peace in the arms of the Lord. 조지 오글 목사님께서 한국의 민주화와 통일을 위해 기도하며 핍박에도 굴하지 않고 지속하여 노력해 주셨던 삶을 우리 한국교회와 교인들, 나아가 국민들이 잘 알고 있습니다. 그의 헌신과 희생을 우리는 영원토록 기억할 것입니다. 하나님께서 그의 가족과 친구들을 위로해 주시기를 바랍니다. 목사님, 주님 품 안에서 평화롭게 쉬십시오.
To God be the glory! Great things God has done through the life and ministry of Rev. George E. Ogle (오명걸 목사님/선교사님). By sending him to Korea as a missionary, God has shown his love to Koreans during the time of oppression. Koreans Rev. Ogle loved were suffering gross indignities at the hands of the military dictatorship. 오명걸 목사님 taught us how to respond to the cry of God's beloved children. Like prophets, George heard God's voice and felt God's heart. And the missionary Rev. Geroge E. Ogle (오명걸 목사님) has shown us an authentic way of "God's mission" in the 21st century and the time of COVID-19. To God be the glory!
My condolences to Dorothy and the rest of the family. His legacy of achievements will be remembered far and wide.
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of such an incredibly accomplished and generous human being. I did not know George but I wish I had. The world is certainly a much better place because George contributed so much everywhere he lived! How fortunate the Lafayette History Museum was to have his involvement.
I just heard that Rev Ogle went home to be with out Lord from a church news on YouTube. No one can thank him enough for his courage, dedication, and determination for the people in Korea under the military dictatorship. Nevertheless, I want to say, "Thank you for showing us what the follower of Christ should do in unjust world." Wish I had a chance to express my gratitude in person. Gratefully Yours In Christ Yoonsun Choe South Korea
I have fond memories of encountering George when I was Associate Pastor at Glenmont UMC in the 1980s. I still remember very well the time I invited him to talk with the Youth Fellowship about his experiences in Korea leading up to his being evicted from that country. He did it in a powerful and faith-filled way. I don't know if the youth remember, but I know their pastor does. I give thanks to God for George Ogle, a fierce and gentle follower of Jesus, who lived his faith and made all who know him better. Rest in peace and rise in glory!
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