Community mourns, remembers John Hogg
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Community members are mourning the loss of a former local Boy Scouts executive director, who is being remembered for his civic leadership and willingness to help people.
John Hogg, a former executive director of the Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America, local Rotary Club president and United Way volunteer, was found dead Saturday at his home. He was 56.
Garden City police Sgt. Michael Reagle said police responded to Hogg's home on Saturday for a welfare check and discovered his body.
"We investigated it as an unattended death, and the coroner's office did not request an autopsy. No foul play is suspected," said Reagle, who did not elaborate on the exact cause of death.
Hogg is described by his sons, Daniel and Matthew, both of Michigan, as being someone who had a passion for helping people.
"I mean, his entire life — pretty much that's what his profession has been. He was a minister before he went to work for the Boy Scouts, so what he was doing was helping people, and that seemed to be his sole goal in life. I don't know if that's the reason he'd say he went into all this, but that was definitely a passion of his, and especially, I know he really enjoyed helping kids out," Matthew Hogg said.
"He loved being able to teach, kids especially, and watch kids learn things through the scouts," Daniel Hogg added.
John McLoughlin, vice president of administration for the Santa Fe Trail Council, said Hogg provided a much-needed turnaround for the local council.
"He did a 180-turnabout with the future of this council because he was willing to do hands-on and get involved. He had this thing with the kids, and the kids loved him because he was an outdoorsman, and that's what the whole program is supposed to be about," McLoughlin said.
His knowledge and love for the outdoors is something that McLoughlin said had a definite impact on the kids who Hogg worked with in Garden City.
"I have a little Eagle Scout kid that lives down the road here, and he's absolutely devastated," McLoughlin said about Hogg's death. "You can't deny that he was a real force here."
Matthew Hogg said that his father also served as a Rotarian for about the past 20 years, both in Michigan, where the family is from, and in Garden City.
Debbie Wharton, who served as a Rotarian alongside Hogg in Garden City, said that despite the fact that he had only lived in Garden City for several years, she felt like she had known him her whole life.
"He and I would sit and laugh. It was like having a brother. He just really, he bonded easily with people," Wharton said. "When you came away from John, you felt important. He had that ability — to make you feel like you were worth something and that you could add to life. He was one of the neatest people I've ever been around. I'm really, really going to miss John."
For about 16 years, prior to getting involved with the Boy Scouts in Michigan, Hogg was a minister.
"Community service, I think, is in his blood. Helping out wherever he could, both physically and financially, is what he was about," Matthew Hogg said.
Victor Hawkins, president of the Santa Fe Council, said that Hogg resigned as scout executive in mid-November.
"I just think John was a wonderful human being, and it's a tragedy that we've lost somebody of his talent," Hawkins said.
Nine years ago, Hogg, an avid mountain climber, vowed to climb the tallest points in all 50 states, and he came within one peak of his goal. He had plans to climb his 50th in 2014 — Mt. McKinley in Alaska, elevation 20,328 feet. Hogg made the vow in honor of his son, Ezra, who died in a car accident in 2001 at the age of 17. Hogg said that climbing in honor of his son helped him to stop focusing on the tragedy and start focusing on the memory of his son to go forward and climb the highest mountain tops.
Matthew said that mountain climbing brings back his favorite memories of his dad.
"Dad and I, we climbed together a lot, so just climbing together, we had a lot of shared experiences. One of the things I think you can say about my dad is he didn't like to give up on stuff," Matthew said, remembering when he and his father climbed a mountain in Wyoming, where Hogg broke his leg.
"He hiked out with a broken leg," Daniel said.
"So he was a guy that no matter how much it hurt, he pushed through," Matthew said.
So far, Hogg is the first person in Kansas to climb all the highest points in the lower 48 states, according to the Highpointers Club, which tracks and records climbers.
Both of his sons said that Hogg was delighted to become a grandfather this year.
"My brother and I both have babies. We both had our kids this year, and to watch him light up at finding that he was going to be a grandfather, not once but twice, you know he was pretty excited," Matthew said, referring to his 7-month-old daughter, Zoey Mae, and Daniel's 2-month-old son, Ezra Jacob.
Steve Karlin, vice president of membership at the Santa Fe Council said, "This is certainly a loss for our community, but more importantly, for his family."