Charles O’Hare did not grow up as a Seventh-day Adventist; his family regularly attended a Baptist church. When he was just a boy, his parents attended a Revelation Seminar in Cortez, Colorado, where they had been favorably impressed with Adventists. They never joined the church but adopted some of the dietary practices and lifestyle and kept their positive view of Adventists.

Charlie graduated from college in his early twenties with a degree in electronics engineering. After college he took a job at CF&I Steel in Pueblo, Colorado, and for the next two and a half years saved money for graduate school. He was accepted into Old Dominion University, but when he went to his bosses and told them he was leaving, they didn’t want to let him go. They asked if he was interested in a management job with a substantial pay increase. Charlie decided to stay a while longer and attend grad school after he saved more money.

He was making good money and life was going fairly well, but he felt like a spiritual change was needed. It was about this time that he saw an advertisement for a five-week Revelation Seminar put on by the Adventist church. Charlie was dating a Catholic girl, who also worked at the steel mill, and things were getting serious. His girlfriend’s family was strict and would not accept a son-in-law from a different faith. He knew he didn’t want to join the Catholic church, so he asked his girlfriend to go to the meetings with him. She attended one night and then her father heard about it, which was the end of their relationship.

Despite this, Charlie continued to attend the meetings. The evangelist, Don Shelton, introduced him to a young woman who was also in attendance, and they began dating soon after. Joann and Charlie were both converted and became members of the Seventh-day Adventist church at the end of the series. A year later, the couple was married.

Two years after the Revelation Seminar and Charlie’s baptism, Elder Don Shelton came back to the area for another set of meetings. When the meetings ended, Elder Shelton asked Charlie and Joann if they would be willing to travel with him across Rocky Mountain Conference to do evangelism. Elder Shelton had purchased a high-quality camera since the couple last saw him. He planned to use the photos he took with it to update and remake his seminar slides. Without knowing it, the purchase entered his name into a contest where he won $100,000. From this money, he paid Charlie and Joann to travel with him for the next ten months. Elder Shelton would record an audio version of his presentation, Joann would transcribe them, and then Charlie would take the slides of photos and text and arrange them – adding them to six carousels, ready for the projector. Joann used her gift of music to add to the program and Charlie not only helped run the meetings but also visited area attendees.

Shortly after the meetings ended, the O’Hares sold their house in the Pueblo area and used the money to put Charlie through seminary at Andrews University. During this time, Elder Shelton had become the Dakota Conference president. As soon as Charlie graduated, Shelton called him and extended an offer for the couple to serve in the Dakotas. On July 1, 1988, Charlie became a pastor at the Williston Church in the northwestern corner of North Dakota. They stayed in the district for two-and-a-half years, moving to Wahpeton shortly after their first daughter, Rachel, was born. They pastored in Wahpeton for 10 years during which their second daughter, Rebecca, was born and Joann went to school for nursing. From there the family moved to Rapid City to pastor a three-church district.

A new opportunity

Conference president Neil Biloff called Charlie in 2008 and asked him to consider a move to the Dakota Conference office to become the trust director. At first Charlie said no; he was content where he was. After administration asked him several more times, he prayed about the matter and felt called to say yes. He realized that a change was needed in his life, so the family moved to Pierre, South Dakota.

In 2010, he began to have mild seizures, and not knowing what they were he began taking extensive notes about his symptoms. He felt disoriented during the episodes and as they grew worse and happened more frequently, he realized he needed to see a doctor. The physician took one look at Charlie’s notes and immediately sent him to a larger hospital for testing. He was diagnosed with a non-malignant pituitary tumor and had surgery soon after. The surgeon could not remove the whole tumor but did not feel it would grow back. When it did grow back, Charlie began to look at his options and was referred to a surgeon at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California. Two surgeries, a nicked cranial nerve connected to his left eye, and many MRIs later, Charlie has had no change in the size of the remaining tumor.

After the Dakota Conference office moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, in 2012, Charlie and Joann relocated for the last time during his career. Charlie has enjoyed his time in the Trust Department. The transfer to trust work has allowed him to have a job that aligns with his way of thinking—methodical and logical. His favorite part of this position has been getting to know the people of the Dakotas in a way that he never could as a pastor. He can still help the people he works with, not by solving church problems, but by assisting and guiding them through their paperwork. Charlie estimates that he has helped 300-400 individuals write wills, trusts, power of attorney documents, and health care directives.

After 35 years of ministering to the constituents of the Dakota Conference, Charlie has decided to retire. He has a bucket list of places to visit and things to do, the first of which will be to finish the restoration process of a graveyard in Ohio where O’Hare ancestors are buried. He also plans to go back to Sierra Leone in Africa. His daughter and son-in-law, James and Rachel Fernando, work at the Waterloo Mission Hospital where Charlie plans to volunteer his handy man services and spend more time with his one- year-old grandson.

Charlie says he will miss the co-workers that he has come to consider friends, as well as the people he has gotten to know while working in the Dakotas. He would like to thank his assistant, Julie Brude, for her help over the years. “This job would be impossible without her. I give her the more menial things like recording emails and logging messages. She gets to do all of those ‘fun’ things that takes the burden off of me and allows me to get to the things I need to. She has been such an asset because of her North Dakota roots and all of the people she knows.” He would also like to thank all the individuals and families he has worked with over the years creating documents, along with the other pastors in the conference. “They have been awesome!” Charlie says. He has gotten to know some of them very well over the years, especially the guys in the sound booth at camp meeting.

Charlie’s service has been greatly appreciated by the constituents of the Dakota Conference. His presence will be missed in the office and throughout the Dakotas. Over the time Charlie has spent in the Dakota Family, many things have come and gone but not his kind heart, steady work ethic, and painful dad jokes. There are very few pastors remaining in the Dakota Conference who served in pastoral ministry with Charlie, and he will be the last of the old guard to leave since he began his ministry those short 35 years ago.