Patricia E. Clawson
There is a reason why Garry Hoogerhyde is probably the longest continually serving ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Whenever the OPC calls, Garry answers. During this year’s general assembly, Garret A. Hoogerhyde was recognized for serving as a ruling elder for sixty-three years in four New Jersey OPC congregations, sacrificing his time and talents and sharing his wisdom just twenty years shy of the OPC’s entire eighty-three-year history. His love for the church led to decades of service on committees of his presbytery and denomination, as well as, in 1976, being one of only nine ruling elders elected to serve as GA moderator.
But this June, Garry, at 89, finally stepped down from the Committee on Home Missions after fifty-five years of service. At the request of John Shaw, general secretary for Home Missions, he agreed to remain on the OPC Loan Fund board as the last of its original members.
Garry is the embodiment of a wise ruling elder, said Shaw. “He is humble, a man of prayer, with a great laugh, who brings a Holy Spirit-filled wisdom to every meeting. He loves the church, exemplified by his willingness to give his time over many decades to serve the cause of the gospel.”
Shaw believes the future of the OPC depends on strong, faithful, wise ruling elders. “The OPC has been built on the shoulders of men like Garry Hoogerhyde.”
“Garry has set the standard,” Danny Olinger, president of the Historian’s Committee, told this year’s assembly. “His work on behalf of the church has not only been of the highest quality, but also quiet and selfless. He has been one of the great gifts that the Lord has given to the OPC.”
Born on March 1, 1930, Garry grew up in the Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, New Jersey. At the advice of his father’s friends, he graduated in business administration from PACE Institute, a top ranked accounting college, in 1950.
Drafted during the Korean War, Garry served at an anti-aircraft radar site that protected New York City. On a blind date to the movies, he met Marlene, his wife of sixty-five years. Garry appreciated Marlene’s outgoing, friendly manner. Marlene jokes she was attracted to his uniform. After his discharge, they married on May 8, 1954.
Garry passed his certified public accounting exam and soon became partner, and then owner, of an accounting firm. When Garry semi-retired at seventy, his son Doug bought the firm. But Garry still goes to his office weekly. “We’re created to work,” said Garry. “If the Lord said I’m finished, I’m fine. He calls the shots.”
While settling on a church, the newlyweds in June 1954 read in the paper about Grace OPC in Fair Lawn. After visiting, the congregation’s pastor, LeRoy Oliver, won their hearts. In 1956 they became Orthodox Presbyterians.
Their new pastor told Marlene, “I’m coming to your house every Monday at four o’clock so you’ll learn the Reformed faith.” While Garry watched their kids, Marlene remembers, she “got the OPC and Roy Oliver, and he cared. How could I not want to be a part of it?” To this day, Marlene considers the OPC her family and going to general assembly a family reunion.
The Hoogerhydes were blessed with eight children, all of whom today are part of Reformed congregations: Stephen (PCA); Susan Lindemulder (PCA); Roy (OPC); Kathleen Kline (PCA); Glenn (CRC); Stuart (CRC); Garry Jr. (OPC); and Douglas (URC). Their goodly heritage includes twenty grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Garry and Marlene raised their children with devotions after dinner, church twice on Sunday, young people’s groups, and education at Christian schools and Dordt College. They sacrificed. Chores were listed on the fridge and those too short to reach the kitchen sink to wash dishes hauled over the stepstool. The kids worked part-time to earn college money, and Marlene taught each how to do laundry, iron, and sew. A musical family, several children accompanied worship. They also learned from Marlene’s gift of hospitality. After cooking for ten, what’s two more?
In 1956, the Fair Lawn congregation elected Garry as a ruling elder because he was young and also knew the Reformed faith and catechism. Since then he twice served as an elder at Emmanuel OPC in Whippany, and once in Nutley. Now he is elder emeritus at Church of the Covenant in Hackettstown. In these congregations, he taught through the Old Testament in adult Sunday schools.
A new elder, Garry attended his first GA in 1956. He was immediately elected to the Home Missions Committee with Roy Oliver as its new general secretary. Garry also was elected to the Presbytery of New Jersey’s Home Missions Committee, Diaconal Committee, and as treasurer. At first, Garry just observed and listened at meetings, learning parliamentary procedures. He advises newly elected men, “Don’t be quick to speak. Scripture tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak. But if you have a question, ask the question.”
When Garry stepped down from Home Missions at this year’s GA, he had served under six general secretaries for fifty-five years (1958–1985, 1991–2019). He also used his financial expertise to serve the entire fifty-five-year life span of the OPC’s Pensions Committee (1959–2017) and administered the OPC’s hospitalization plan for forty-three years (1966–2009). Garry also represented Home Missions on the Committee on Coordination for twenty-six years (1993–2019) and served for thirty-six years as the only president of the OPC Loan Fund (1983–today). “Who would have thought that a small church like the OPC could have a loan fund of $14 million to support congregations—even small, young congregations—to purchase buildings? A large piece of that story began with the faithful labors of Garry,” Shaw said.
Garry is thankful to serve. “We have not lost a penny over the years.”
Director of Finance David Haney appreciates Garry’s solid foundation. “Having served for so many years on so many committees, Garry’s ability to recall past practices (both good and bad) is tremendously useful in so many aspects of denominational work.”
By default, Garry handled the Pensions program, inheriting boxes of records within hours of being asked. Before computers, Garry set up his basement and Marlene, a legal secretary, manned the phones while Garry processed claims by day and their son Steve took over at night. “I’ll use the knowledge I’ve been granted,” said Garry.
In 1966, the Thirty-Third Assembly assigned the administration of the health insurance program to the Committee on Pensions so Garry helped to develop and operate the self-funded health plan for OP ministers. At first they ran it out of their house while the pension program moved to Garry’s office. For thirteen years, Marlene, and their children Steve, Kathy Kline, and Doug helped Garry to facilitate both the hospitalization and pension programs. “We enjoy it and it helps all these pastors and wives,” said Garry. “When you look back over the years, many times I wasn’t around, but Marlene was always so supportive and so were the kids.”
In 1988 the Fifty-Fifth General Assembly gave a standing ovation for Marlene’s “unfailing patience and helpfulness to participants of the (Health) Plan.” The Seventy-Fifth General Assembly thanked the Hoogerhyde family for “decades of faithful care.” At the final Pensions Committee meeting in 2017, they also thanked Garry for more than fifty-three years of “caring for the needs of pastors in the OPC.”
“It’s astounding to realize that the Lord saw fit to use me that length of time and that the church feels I’ve been useful,” said Garry. “That is encouraging and humbling, but it’s the Lord’s. Unless the Lord had done it, it wouldn’t have happened.”
The author is a member of Calvary OPC, Glenside, Pennsylvania. New Horizons, August–September 2019.