Herbert G. Hohensee
1920 - 1995
Herbert (Herb) Hohensee, a baritone, was best known for his singing and leadership of the Faith for Today Quartet for thirteen years. He was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where his father worked for the railroad. His mother, who was very musical, gave the children piano lessons starting at an early age. While in elementary school he sang in a small sextet and took violin lessons in seventh and eighth grade.
While attending Plainview Academy in Redfield, South Dakota, a school that closed in 1963, he became active in the music program, singing in the choir, joined a male quartet and frequently sang solos. Following graduation from PA in 1938, he entered Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, as a music major.
While at UC, he met Marjorie (Marge) Miller, a talented pianist who resided in Lincoln and was attending the college. On December 24, 1942, the couple married in Denver, Colorado, while he was in the armed services. Throughout their 47 years of marriage, she was the only accompanist he would use in his many appearances as a soloist.
With the outbreak of the World War II in his fourth year, he was drafted into the army. He was trained as a Lab Technician at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, but was transferred to Texas to open a hospital at McKinney, Texas, where he worked as a medical supply Sergeant. An excellent typist, he was recruited by the Captain of the medical supply office to type, a job he held for the three years he served in Texas. He was one of eight enlisted personnel who had opened the hospital in McKinney, Texas, and one of the last eight to leave. During this time he became known as "Ho," a name he liked and would be called by for the rest of his life by friends and family.
While he was serving in the army in Texas, the Hohensees attended an evangelistic crusade conducted in Dallas by Fordyce Detamore. Bob Metcalfe was the singing evangelist for the crusade and soon befriended them. In the fall of 1946, Metcalfe invited them to join him for his own crusade in Toronto, Canada, where he spoke, Herbert sang, and Marjorie was the pianist. This was the beginning of their music ministry for the church. After that winter in Canada, they returned to Lincoln, where they finished their education.
When Hohensee and other veterans returned to UC after the war, they became part of a program that, housed in a new music building, enrolled over 600 students in music, 400 of them in lessons. He thrived in this setting and enjoyed making music with fellow students Harold Lickey, Lyle Jewell, and Wayne Hooper. At the beginning of his senior year in the fall of 1947, he was hired to teach, along with Hooper, and, following graduation in 1948, taught for two more years.
In 1950, Hohensee took a study leave to pursue graduate study at Westminster Choir College. If he was to continue teaching music, he needed to work towards a Master's Degree. That fall, just as he was starting his studies, a fellow WC student, who was not a Seventh-day Adventist but was singing in the quartet at Faith for Today television program on an interim basis, informed those on the program about Hohensee.
The program, a pioneering endeavor on the part of the church that had started a few weeks earlier, invited him to sing in its male quartet. Although Hohensee started on a part-time basis in October, by February he had been hired full-time and began working to form a permanent quartet.
By the end of summer 1951, two former friends from Union College, Harold Lickey a first tenor, and Lyle Jewell, a bass, were hired to join Hohensee and Walter Isensee, replacing two non-Adventist professional singers who had been singing in the interim. This newly formed group sang together for the next three years, becoming the first all-Adventist Faith for Today Quartet.
For thirteen years, Hohensee led the quartet, choosing the music that would be performed on the program and coordinating songs to enhance the message of each program. Changes in personnel occurred and the television program became a more sophisticated operation, progressing from live on-the-air production to film, and, in time, from black and white to color.
From his first year at FFT, he made other contributions to the program. To save the program money, Hohensee established the first in-house offset printing press. He started a filing system that tracked contributions and requests for Bible studies and materials, and he was also in charge of the studio. In that position, he oversaw all aspects of sound related to post production work on the show, including the mixing and creation of the sound track for the program.
When he had joined the Faith for Today quartet in 1951, Marjorie had also joined the program staff. She started the Bible School, and for a short time was editor of Telenotes, a monthly paper sent to viewers. In 1953, when a vacancy for organist on the program arose, she agreed to "fill in" for three months while a search was made. The three months became eight years, with her serving as organist full-time until 1958 and as needed until 1960.
In 1955 it was suspected that Herbert was in the early stages of multiple sclerosis. Because the diagnosis was not conclusive, the doctor advised Marjorie not to tell her husband. For three years she agonized over the possibility of loosing her husband at an early age, only sharing this news with the Fagals. The first M.S. attack lasted for five weeks with no physical indication that he had been sick. The second attack came three years later and lasted longer. At that time he was told of his disease and that there was no medication or treatment to help him.
Providentially, he was led to Dr. Max Jacobson, a physician in Manhattan who was doing research on incurable diseases. For fourteen years he was under Dr. Jacobson's care, often sharing an examining room with Hollywood celebrities that flew to New York just to see the doctor. Dr. Jacobson was also treating President John F. Kennedy during part of that time. Hohensee never had another attack of multiple sclerosis. The doctor died in the 1970s and his treatments and research were lost.
Hohensee was ordained on June 30, 1962, at the recommendation of Pastor Fagal. One of few pastors who had never pastored a church, his ordination acknowledged the contribution his music had made in the ministry of the church and the effect it had had on the lives of many.
When the studio began to film in color, brighter lighting had to be used. Because Hohensee's sensitivity to this increased lighting caused severe headaches, he left the quartet in 1963, but continued in his key production activities.
When the program was moved to Long Island in 1964 and they had their own building, he led out in the construction and updating of a studio where they could produce the show and prepare it for distribution. When FFT again moved, this time to Thousand Oaks, California, eight years later, it became part of the Adventist Media Center, a combining of all Adventist programs using different media. As technology advanced, Hohensee took additional training in Hollywood to better fulfill his duties as Director for Film and Video Services, a position he held until retiring in 1982.
They stayed in the area following retirement. An avid sports fan, he had played ping pong when the quartet stayed in YMCAs on its tours, and enjoyed tennis, badminton, paddle ball and its successor in the 1970s, racquetball. Now retired, he regularly played the latter on a regular basis. He also helped the Heralds quartet by caring for their office and doing receipting and correspondence.
With her talents in speech and his talent of singing, after retirement the Hohensees presented sermons that intertwined solos throughout the message. These musical sermons were a powerful blessing to their listeners.
In 1978, Margie and "Ho" attended a Marriage Encounter. They became leaders in that weekend program and presented over 100 weekends in the next twelve years, helping over 3000 couples make their "good" marriages "great."
In 1988, six years after retiring, they moved to Battleground, Washington. In December 1990, Marjorie, along with her brother-in-law, and Herbert's mother, were tragically killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Although Herbert and his sister were in the car, they survived.
This sudden death of a person that many knew and loved stunned both the family and her many friends. A number of memorial services were held in the days that followed which mourned her death and celebrated the impact she had had on the lives of many.
After her death, Hohensee sang very little. However, following his marriage to Naomi Harris in 1991, he began to sing again. He sang occasionally for church and at Plainview Academy Reunions this time with Naomi accompanying him. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 1995 and died in June.
Sources: Interviews with William Hohensee (son) ,3,4,21 October 2007, and Hari Butsch (daughter), 7 October 2007; Virginia Fagal, This is Our Story, Pacific Press, 1980, 35; Dan Shultz, "The Trumpet Shall Sound . . . ," International Adventist Musicians Association Notes Summer/Autumn 2007, 3-9.