Hohn returns home, serves as deacon at Jeannette's Holy Trinity
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Tom Hohn was on his way home to Weehawken, N.J., from the church that he served, after a night of working with the homeless.
He was on a bus in Hoboken traveling to the train station when the first tower was hit by terrorists aboard a passenger plane. By the time he reached the train station, the second tower had been struck and transportation was halted.
Hohn was born and raised in Jeannette. He graduated from Jeannette High School and then continued his education at an airline school in Minneapolis. After graduating form airline school he secured a job with Braniff International Airways.
He was employed as a cargo loader in Chicago but then transferred to New York City.
“This was in the airlines' heyday in the 60s and 70s. Everybody started at the bottom, but you could move up,” Hohn said. “It was true advancement.”
Hohn proved that by advancing to station director, and he was in charge of the entire Braniff station in New York.
Although employed in the transportation field, Hohn said, “From the time I was 5-years-old, I knew what I wanted to do. As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a minister.”
Having a flexible schedule at Braniff enabled Hohn to be able to go back to school and achieve his lifelong dream of being in the ministry.
While working at Braniff he earned a bachelor's degree at NYU in philosophy and religion and then earned his master's of divinity at General Theological Seminary, also in New York.
As the airline industry declined, Braniff went bankrupt in 1982, and Hohn became a corporate travel agent in Newark. This position also enabled him to work in the ministry because it provided him with great flexibility.
“Over time,” Hohn said, “I learned that I wanted to do something more hands-on than the priesthood, and the deaconate give me more of chance to do that.”
Hohn served as a deacon for the Lutheran Church and worked for many years specifically at St. John the Baptist Church in Hoboken. He also served the Lutheran Church by assisting other congregations in growing in “faith and numbers” which is his area of expertise.
Over the course of 17 years, he assisted 17 churches in this endeavor.
St. John the Baptist runs a large homeless shelter in Hoboken in addition to providing classes in job and life skills.
He worked in that ministry, which had just three employees including Hohn. His job was to coordinate all the volunteers so meals were timely and other activities continued.
After working through the night at the shelter until the morning hours of Sept. 11, Hohn was on his way home when the Twin Towers were attacked.
“It is impossible to describe being there. I was across the river going to the train when the second plane hit. At first I felt numbness — ‘it can't be happening.' Then the natural instinct of the collar kicked in and I began to help people.
“People began coming through the tunnels on foot from across the river in New York. We worked to get them to the hospitals and to triage. People were completely covered in white dust. They looked like statues. It was so deadly quiet,” Hohn said. “They were completely shell shocked. People were coming into the station by the thousands from the ferry slip, too.”
Hohn said he assisted first responders as much as possible and sometime during the next night the police started sending them home.
As all this was going on, Hohn said, “We realized how many people were coming over and we opened our church, and contacted all the churches and asked them to do the same, even if it was just to allow people to sit and pray.”
After that fateful experience, Hohn continued to serve in Hoboken for another two years, until 2003 when he suffered from congestive heart failure.
His heart problems were so severe that he could not live alone and returned to Jeannette and to his family. His parents, Warren and Jean Marsula Hohn, were still alive at the time, though his dad has since died.
Jean Hohn is in her 80s and still going strong.
Since returning home, Hohn has helped out as a deacon at Grace United Church of Christ, but a little more than two years ago, an opening came up at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, where he is now currently serving as deacon.
His duties include assisting with church services, weddings and other church functions as well as visiting the sick and the shut-in.
Hohn is a Renaissance man as he is an avid reader, painter and writer. Hohn paints in watercolors and the writing he does is for his own pleasure.
Even if he is not preaching on a given Sunday, each week he takes the time to write a sermon.
Over the years, Hohn has traveled to Africa as a missionary and has served on numerous non-profit boards. He is also a member of Jeannette's Third Saturday Club and treasurer of the Jeannette Ministerium.
To learn more about religion and philosophy, traveling, painting or assisting people in need, get to know neighbor Tom Hohn.
Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.