Charles Merrill Hallberg

Hallberg, Charles.jpg

Charles Merrill Hallberg
March 23, 1931
December 3, 2020

Charles Merrill Hallberg, March 23, 1931 – December 3, 2020
“Hello, hello, helloo! ‘Tis I, the Old Man!  Just calling to say hi, call me back when you get a chance. I love you.”

This simple phone message embodied the best qualities of our dad: good cheer, humor, and love. These are what we will miss the most of a simple, yet complicated person.

Baby Boy Lee was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Norwegian mother who decided that she could not provide for him alone. He was adopted by a Swedish couple, Charles and Hulda Hallberg, and grew up steeped in the culture of the Old Country. Charles Merrill went by his middle name in childhood, but on the advice of his older sister changed to ‘Chuck’ in High School.  This is how he always introduced himself, even as “Grandpa Chuck’ to some of his grandchildren because ‘Mr. Hallberg’ was his father.

Chuck Hallberg had a kaleidoscope life with many prisms that fashioned this humble Scandinavian. He began working while still in high school, loading trucks and leaving the homework to classmates who handed it to him in the morning. After graduation he took a couple of college classes.  One taught by Dr. Milton Freedman helped form his staunch view of free market economics.  

Adventure called Chuck to North Carolina where he worked as poultry truck driver.  Meanwhile, his father, an envelope salesman, was duped into buying a failing soap manufacturing company.  He kept it on the condition that Chuck return to run it, and he would handle the sales.  This partnership lasted until the elder Hallberg’s death, and is continued by Chuck’s son Clark, as Surety Hand Soap, LLC.  

In May, 1956, Chuck married Carol Condee. Their three children - Clark, Caryn and Christen - added a new prism to his life. He was a fun dad, always up for a laugh or adventure, but not much on discipline. He did teach his children to think independently, though, and believed we could do anything we set our minds to. “Stretch your wings and fly and then fly higher!” He loved us and was proud of us.

Soap manufacturing was too mundane for Chuck’s inquiring mind, and not lucrative enough to support a family.  He had worked at Allied News, and then as the Office Manager at Regnery Publishing in Chicago.  When his position was eliminated, he began Chas. Hallberg & Company, one of the radically conservative book publishers of the tumultuous 1960's.

Chuck had the unique ability to tap into the author’s voice and edit in such a way that greatly improved the writing yet still left the author pleased with his own work. Privately, Chuck thought of the books as his own. During his lifetime he published over 80 titles, usually in the areas of political science or economics, always with a libertarian lens.~ An early venture, Free Press, Fair Trial, about the Jimmy Hoffa case, resulted in the wiretapping of the family home by the FBI. Publishing The Drew Pearson Story led to Chuck and Clark meeting Congressmen and Senators in Washington.   Decades later, Chuck was proud of republishing the writings of Albert J. Knock, one of which is used as textbook at Hillsdale College.  

As a member of the Philadelphia Society and a supporter of the Foundation for Economic Education (F.E.E), Chuck rubbed elbows with Ayn Rynd, William F. Buckley, Bill Falloon, and Edwin Meese to name a few. Throughout the years he corresponded with Ronald Reagan, and loved to recount being seated next to Margaret Thatcher at a dinner. Lifelong friend the Rev. Dr. Edmund Opitz shared his theology of freedom and was godfather to daughter Christen.

The kaleidoscope changed in colors as do the seasons in a man’s life. Chuck’s creative energy did not translate into effectively promoting or selling his ideas, and he chafed under rules, deadlines, and any details outside of his focus.  Unfortunately, this part of his personality cost him many relationships, including his marriage, as families need stability.  A few years after the family relocated to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the commute to Chicago and other stressors took their toll and divorce followed.

Chuck was soon re-married to Mary Thorsen and became step-father to her son, Mike Cha.  The soap and publishing companies moved to Delavan, WI.   There Chuck was an active member of the Rotary Club, performed in several plays with the Lakeland Players, and enjoyed singing in his church choir.

The desire to become an author, and not merely a ghostwriter/publisher, was finally realized in the form of The History of Hymn Singing through One Hundred and One Most Loved Hymns. The book was later republished by Reader’s Digest in a coffee table edition. Chuck thought it would look odd to have the author and publisher as the same person, so he wrote as Charles Johnson.   Chuck loved to sing, especially hymns, so the six-year project was very personal.

Additionally, Surety was never just about powdered hand soap.  Numerous inventions followed: Red Devil floor cleaner; a shuffleboard wax formula; a liquid fishing lure coating; Paint BGone paint remover; a cleaner used for theater popcorn machines; and a waterless hand soap, which he sold as Pumice Jell and other varieties.  He always complained that GoJo stole his idea and marketed more aggressively.

Living by his own terms cost Chuck another marriage, but did not dampen his enthusiasm for life. He eventually moved to Largo, Florida and enjoyed the year round green of the palm trees.  There he established the Nockian Society to promote the works of Albert J Nock.  He enjoyed bike riding long miles, staying up late, and always looking for the next big break.

 Chuck worked well into his 80’s. “No one would have known I only had a high school diploma.” He followed this remark with, “Learn to think, listen to what is being said, and consider what is being done around you." He was not spoon fed information.~ He enjoyed research to seek truth and justice, and was a true American patriot.~

In the final season the colors changed once more when Chuck moved to Falmouth, Maine, to be near family. There the white of the snow reflected the calm that came over him with the attentive care of the staff of Sedgewood Commons.  His life had come full circle. Chuck and Carol enjoyed many sweet visits as the lost years melted away and revealed a love that had never died.

Chuck leaves behind many who love him dearly and know his legacy. Besides family already mentioned, Chuck is survived by eight grandchildren, seven great grand-children and one great-great grandson, his sister, Carolyn, and two nieces and their children.

As we bid farewell to the kind man who could croon like Bing Crosby, chat politics with the elite, make the best soap ever, and never grew too old to have fun, we say “Jeg elsker deg,” Norwegian for “I love  you.“  A private family memorial is planned for the end of December.

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