Saturday, August 29, 2009
On Saturday, August 29, 2009, I witnessed the rededication of Thornton F. McElroy Lodge on its 50th Anniversary. This was a bittersweet occasion for me, since I was virtually raised by T.F. McElroy Lodge. I say that, while knowing that I was actually raised as a Master Mason on July 7, 1995 in Matanuska Lodge No. 7 in Palmer, Alaska. What I mean by saying that I was raised by T.F. McElroy Lodge, is that its founding members had a significant influence on my growth and development toward manhood. These men were my first employer, my first coworkers, my high school principal, my first auto insurance agent, and my DeMolay Dad advisors.
I remember Dad’s (J.K. Cline) excitement at being appointed Junior Steward of the lodge, and Mom’s less than exuberant enthusiasm at having to prepare meals for the lodge for two years. My grandmother lived with us then, and she and mom made some delicious pies every Wednesday night for those first two years. I remember, too, my less than favorable impression of Masonry as I watched those wonderful pies go out the door without even tasting the slightest crumb. It wasn’t long after that, that my brother and I also got the Masonic spirit when we joined the newly chartered Federal Way Chapter Order of DeMolay. It seems like yesterday that I was practicing the DeMolay ritual and enjoying the dances and get-togethers with Jobies and Rainbow Girls.
Dad was the sixth Worshipful Master of T.F. McElroy. Today he is the only living Past Master who was also a charter member of the lodge. All of those wonderful Masons who helped shape my life are no longer with us, and I miss them.
The rededication of the Lodge was conducted by the officers of the Grand Lodge of Washington, with MW Gale H. Kenney presiding. Dad performed the part of the “Messenger” to invite the Grand Lodge Officers into the Lodge room. As the visiting Grand Master from Alaska, I was extended the honor of joining the Grand Master of Washington in the East. And, as a life member of T.F. McElroy, I participated in a part of the rededication ceremony. I was given an additional honor, when the Worshipful Master of T.F. McElroy (D. Rex Reardon) made me an honorary Past Master of the Lodge and presented me with my Past Master’s Apron.
It was great to participate in this event and be part of a moment in the history of T.F. McElroy Lodge. It was also nice to remember the great Masons who created this Lodge 50 years ago and to look forward to its exciting and prosperous future.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Yesterday afternoon before we rushed to catch our flight to Seattle, Beth, my parents, and I visited the Alaska State Fair. We were on a bit of a mission, since Beth, our daughter Megan, and I all had something entered in the one or another of the craft exhibits there. Our daughter is a graphic artist and her entries usually place well in the fair. This year was no exception, and she received a first place ribbon in the watercolor category. Beth is our resident quilter; however she has never taken the opportunity to enter any of her quilts. She did this year and received a second place ribbon for her effort (Fall’s Finery). I am a home brewer. Two years ago, when there was little competition, I placed quite well in the Ales category. This year I only managed a third place ribbon for my ‘Black Porter’.
The Alaska State Fair takes place in Palmer, Alaska and this year it runs from August 27 until Labor Day (September 7). It has been annual event in this rural community ever since the days of the development of the Matanuska Valley Colony during the New Deal era of the 1930s. Like most county fairs, the Alaska State Fair features all kinds of fun, food, and entertainment. One event that captures the attention of most Fair goers is the giant vegetable weigh-off. The Matanuska Valley is noted for its giant vegetables, more especially its giant cabbages. These cold climate crops do well in Alaska, but it wasn’t until the entry of the Dinkle family in this annual competition that things really took off. Dr. Don Dinkle (past Master of Matanuska Lodge No. 7), while professor of agriculture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was contacted by his brother in Palmer and asked how he might beat the competition at the State Fair. Don suggested a particular variety of cabbage called the OS Cross and outlined a method of hydrating and fertilizing these giants during the growing process. Today, there are many other growers who have tried their hand at growing large vegetables, however the Dinkles usually give them stiff competition.
Alaskan Freemasonry, too has had a presence at the Alaska State Fair for many years. The Rite Care Booth sponsored by the Scottish Rite Masons does a land office business selling soft serve ice cream and shakes in one half of their booth and fish and chips on the other half. Proceeds from this booth go to support their Rite Care Childhood Language Program. For many years the Mat-Su Shrine Club (Al Aska Shrine Temple) has maintained a food booth near the equestrian stables. Proceeds from this booth go to support the Shrines Orthopedic and Burn Care Hospitals. About five years ago, the Alaska Masonic Families group took over the operation of the Matanuska Masonic Temple Fair Booth and run it as a Masonic information center. Masons from across the country and around the world as well as those who are curious about our fraternity stop into this booth for some hospitality and information about Freemasonry.
If you find yourself in Palmer between now and September 7, come on down to the Fair and stop and support Freemasonry in action.
Monday, August 24, 2009
On Saturday, August 22, I made my official visit to White Pass Lodge No. 1 in Skagway, Alaska. This trip was just a short jaunt of 1,544 miles round trip from our home in Palmer, Alaska. Beth, the Most Worshipful Grand Parents (Marge and Kelly Cline), the Grand Lecturer (W John Bishop), and I left Palmer early Thursday morning to make the trek to Skagway. It is interesting to note that our journey from one part of our state to another required us to travel across a large portion of the Yukon Territory and a bit of British Columbia in Canada and to make four border crossings (two coming and two going). We returned home Sunday evening, tired but invigorated by the good fellowship from our Canadian and American brothers.
On the way down to Skagway, we encountered a lot of wildlife including Trumpeting Swans, coyotes, black bear, and deer. We also had the opportunity to travel through majestic mountains and beautiful forests along the Alaska Highway. Our return to Palmer was just as enjoyable, with tinges of color on the leaves of the trees and berry bushes; a hint of the change in season coming around the corner. About the only wildlife we experienced on the return trip were the hundreds of tourists and Alaskan “Snow Birds” streaming across the border in their motor homes, one step ahead of the first snow fall. They looked a bit like rats leaving a sinking ship.
On Saturday morning, the Grand Lecturer presented a lodge of instruction to the members of White Pass No. 1 and members of Whitehorse Lodge No. 46, who traveled down from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory for the visit. John’s instruction was very well received and there was quite a bit of interchange regarding the difference in customs between the Alaskan and Canadian lodges. At the conclusion of the lodge of instruction, we all adjourned to the Skagway Fish Company for a sumptuous seafood lunch.
After changing into more formal attire, we reassembled at the Lodge Building for the reception of the Grand Master and a brief program of speeches by selected members and Grand Lodge officers present. I wish to thank WB Ken Mayo for a very enjoyable day in Skagway and a wonderful lunch. I would also like to send a special thank you to RW Ron Ackerman (SGW) and his lady Debbie for all of their assistance and sharing their home.
We left Skagway in the late afternoon for our long drive back to Palmer. Along the way, we stopped in Whitehorse, YT to tour Whitehorse Lodge No. 46’s newly constructed Lodge building. It was a beautiful building and it was apparent to us that the Whitehorse Masonic family put a lot of time, effort, and love into their new Masonic Temple.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Al Aska Shrine Chief Raban, Dave Worel, negotiated with Imperial Shrine Headquarters to send the two members of their Membership Development Team to Alaska instead of sending two Al Aska Divan members to Tampa, FL. Seminar participants included representatives of various Masonic Family groups from throughout the jurisdiction of Alaska and the elected Al Aska Shrine Divan officers. The seminar was a great benefit to all who attended and a debt of gratitude is owed to Nobel Dave for making it happen.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The Grand Lodge of Alaska announces the creation of its Visual Arts and Music Scholarship. This scholarship is being perpetuated by an endowment established by Grand Lodge and supported by Alaskan Freemasons and the community. Money granted to successful applicants will come from earnings on the endowment’s investment and none of the principle will be touched. As Freemasonry is a voluntary organization, nearly 100% of all contributions will be used to grow the endowment, and the administrative overhead will be miniscule.
The scholarship will be an annual offering to Alaskan High School Seniors who intend to pursue post secondary education in a field of visual arts or music. The initial offering will consist of a $500 to $1,000 grant(s), and the number and amounts of future grants will increase each year as the endowment grows through additional contributions and earnings on the investment. Anyone interested in donating to this scholarship may do so by contacting the Grand Lodge of Alaska at (907) 561-1477 or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
High School Seniors who will graduate in the spring of 2010 may apply for this initial offering by contacting their school’s counselors for an application after September 1, 2009. Additionally, they may download the application form from the Grand Lodge of Alaska web site. Applications for this initial offering must be completed and postmarked no later than November 30, 2009 and sent to:
Stephen E. Wright, Scholarship Committee Chair
P.O. Box 20021
Juneau, AK 99802
Yesterday evening, Beth and I attended the opening ceremonies for the 37th session of the Grand Court of Alaska, Order of the Amaranth. We were the guests of H.L. Bette Gutcher, Grand Royal Matron and S.K. Norm Gutcher, Grand Royal Patron. This year’s theme was “North to Alaska” and the Alaskan Grand Court enjoyed the presences of several guests from throughout the lower 48 states and Canada who came to share in the beauty of our great state.
During the opening ceremonies, I shared the Grand Throne with several distinguished guest, where I brought greetings from the Grand Lodge of Alaska. Those distinguished guests included Illustrious Sir Kenneth Krasselt (Potentate of Al Aska Shrine), Lt. General Craig E. Campbell (Lieutenant Governor of the State of Alaska), S.K. Dwight Cosgrove (Supreme Royal Patron), and H.L. Barbara Lee Overton (Supreme Royal Matron).
The Order of the Amaranth is a primary supporter of Diabetes research. Michelle Cassano, Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association, Alaska shared some information and remarks about this dreaded disease. Although, the Grand Court of Alaska, which comprises three Courts, is small in number, it is big in heart. For 13 years in a row, they have been recognized for the highest dollar amount per member contributed to Diabetes research. This year was no exception, as the 136 members of the Grand Court of Alaska have contributed over $22,000 for Diabetes research.
I wish the Grand Court of Alaska all the best for a very successful 37th Annual Session.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
On Saturday, August 8, I had the opportunity to meet with the Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alaska to brief them on the “State of the Jurisdiction”. We are half way through the current term. I wanted to update the PGMs on my view of how things are progressing and to hear their thoughts on some of the initiatives Grand Lodge is pursuing. The following is a summary of the information presented:
• Committee Assignments and Status – This year we have taken an aggressive approach in the assignment of the various Grand Lodge standing and sub committees. Each committee chairman has been given a set of specific tasks which they expected to accomplish and time frames when those tasks should be completed. To date, all committees appear to be on tract with their given assignments. Some of the committees have gone the extra mile and have far exceeded my expectations.
Masonic Public Relations Committee – Brother Jeff Polizzotto has been extremely busy promoting Masonry throughout Southeast Alaska this year and is preparing a statewide newspaper ad campaign to recognize the State of Alaska’s 50th Anniversary and Masonry’s participation in the development of all Alaskan communities. This campaign will coincide with the Alaska Day celebration on October 18th.
Masonic Youth Committee – WB Dale Gillilan has completed the final draft of the brochure to be distributed to all Masons in Alaska, encouraging Masons, Lodges and other Masonic bodies to sponsor and support Masonic youth organizations. Several copies of the brochure will be distributed to each constituent lodge and will be available at the Masonic Booth at the Alaska State Fair.
Leadership Training Committee – The Deputies of the Grand Master have successfully presented Lodge Officers Training course in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 5. District 4 has tentatively scheduled this training in Juneau in September. The Lodge Officers Training course is open to all Master Masons who are officers in their lodges and those who ever plan to be an officer. The training focuses on the duties and responsibilities of each lodge officer, suggested committees and lodge activities, and lodge management. This training has been very well received and Districts 3 and 5 are planning a combined District training event later this year.
Internet Committee – WB Tad Dean has completed a complete overhaul of the Grand Lodge of Alaska web site resulting in the following:
- A more 'upbeat' look and feel of the site;
- Crafted a message from the GM based on the 2009 theme for Alaska Masons and a message to the inquiring non-Mason;
- Improved navigability by incorporating a left banner site menu visible from all pages;
- Updated for 2009 GL officers' current information and posts;
- Updated Alaska Lodge information where responses were received;
- Created a web page titled 'Alaska-Things to do', with lots of useful information for the visiting mason and others; and
- Incorporated Traveling Mason review comments of the web site, which, incidentally, has been well received.
Trestle Board Committee – MWB Jared Decker has taken on the task of publishing the Grand Lodge of Alaska quarterly newsletter, “Light of the Great Land”. It has been a few years since Grand Lodge has published a newsletter and MWB Jared’s contribution is a refreshing addition of the several ways Grand Lodge has been communicating with the membership this year. The newsletter is viewable on the Grand Lodge web site and is downloadable. Hard copies of the newsletter have been distributed to each of the constituent lodges, as well. MWB Jared encourages contributors to get their articles for publication in early.
Masonic Code Review Committee – VWB Roger Hansen has commented that the only thing consistent about the Alaska Masonic Code is that it was consistently inconsistent consistently. VWB Roger was tasked with finding and correcting missing information and typographical errors. However, while reviewing the entire Code, many mistakes and errors were found that affected the meaning and intent of the Code. These errors and mistakes have been corrected by comparing the current Code with the original 1981 Code and 1988 Clarified Code and all passed resolutions to date. Also, both the Table of Contents and Index have been reviewed for spelling and alphabetical errors and have been corrected. The Alaska Masonic Code's format has been slightly changed so that everything lines up from page to page for consistency and thus is easier to read. The Jurisprudence Committee has reviewed the work done by VWB Roger’s committee and report that the results are merely housekeeping in nature and not changes to the Code.
Masonic Scholarship Committee – In the late 1990s, RWB Ed Weisser (PGM Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania) contributed a sum of money to the Grand Lodge of Alaska for the purpose of establishing an Arts Scholarship. In 2001, MWB Chuck Corbin established the Alaska Masonic Charities Foundation to administer an endowment dedicated partly to such a scholarship. This year, the Grand Lodge established a special committee dedicated to providing a clear definition of the “Grand Lodge of Alaska’s Arts & Music Scholarship”,
establishing applicant eligibility, establish a selection criteria for awarding scholarships, promoting the Scholarship to the target group of applicants, and making an award coincident with the 2010 Annual Communication. Brother Stephen Wright and his committee have created an application form for the “Grand Lodge of Alaska Visual Arts and Music Masonic Scholarship” and a ranking guide for selecting the best qualified applicant. The scholarship will be promoted within Alaskan High Schools and an award made during Grand Lodge in February 2010.
Ritual Consolidation Committee – Early this spring and under direction from Grand Lodge, MWB Chuck Corbin and his committee consolidated the Standard Work of the Grand Lodge of Alaska, as defined in Section 8.01 Constitution of the Alaska Masonic Code, into a single volume. The purpose of this consolidated ritual is to provide a more orderly and manageable ritual book, which will encourage more, and better practice and presentation of the Alaskan ritual. During my visits throughout the jurisdiction this year, I have shared the draft of the consolidated ritual with the brethren with resulting rave reviews.
• Special Activities & Achievements
Alaska Masonic Foundation for Children – Late last year, the name of Alaska Masonic Charities Foundation was changed to the “Alaska Masonic Foundation for Children (AMFC)”. The purpose of this endowment is to provide material support for the “Grand Lodge of Alaska’s Arts & Music Scholarship” and the “Alaska Masonic Model Student Assistance Program”. During the same period and working with an attorney, an application was prepared and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service to exempt the AMFC from Federal income tax under section 501 (c) 3 of the IRS Code. In March of this year, we received notification from the IRS that our application had been granted.
Direct Appeal – Last year, I committed the Grand Lodge of Alaska to a contract with Affinity Marketing Associates to administer a direct appeal to our members. The purpose of this appeal was to raise money to base fund the “Grand Lodge of Alaska’s Arts & Music Scholarship” portion of the “Alaska Masonic Foundation for Children (AMFC)”. Affinity assured me that, since the Grand Lodge of Alaska had not pursued a direct appeal for some time, we might be able to raise as much as $3,000 to $4,000. They also assured me that should we fail to raise enough money to cover the cost of the marketing campaign, we would not have to reimburse them. To date, we have netted nearly $10,000 in contributions, and I am exceedingly grateful to the members of the Grand Lodge of Alaska for your generosity.
Ritual Performance – The Alaska Masonic Code defines a Standard of Proficiency, which, when met, will lead to a certificate of proficiency. The recitation from memory required to meet this standard is extremely stringent and very few if any attempt it. In order to encourage greater participation in memorizing our ritual and recognition for accomplishment, I have charged RW Jerry Wasson (Grand Secretary) to chair a Ritual Performance committee. The purpose of the committee is to establish criteria for three levels of ritual performance and to create a recognition program for successful demonstration of proficiency.
Prince Hall Recognition – On May 10, 1997, the Grand Lodge of Alaska entered into an agreement of mutual recognition with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska, Inc. In the intervening years, the Grand Lodge of Alaska has entered into similar agreements with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut, Inc.; the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, Inc.; and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina, Inc. This year, I formed a special committee, chaired by RW Johnnie Wallace (DGM), to work with the committee to be named by the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska. The purpose of this committee is to identify those North American Prince Hall Grand Lodges who (1) are in amity with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Alaska, (2) meet the standards of recognition as defined by the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Lodges of North America, and (3) who maintain treaties of shared jurisdiction with the mainstream Grand Lodge(s) within their jurisdiction. Further, I have charged this committee with drafting letters for my signature requesting amity with those Prince Hall Grand Lodges that meet these criteria.
MSA Hospital Visitation Program – The Hospital Visitation Program of the Masonic Service Association of North America “is much more than merely "visitations" to the disabled and lonely patients in V.A. Hospitals, State Veterans Homes and Extended Care Facilities. It is the rendering of personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and Non-Masons alike, who now need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant.” I am proud to announce that the Grand Lodge of Alaska is participating in this wonderful program with my naming of VWB William Goodwin as our representative as Hospital Visitation Coordinator within the Veterans and Pioneers Home in Palmer.
Alaska Masonic Family Group – On May 9 this year, I hosted the inaugural meeting of the Alaska Masonic Family Group. The purpose of the group is:
- To provide a forum for leaders of the Alaskan Concordant Bodies to meet with the leaders of the Grand Lodge of Alaska and exchange ideas on topics which are of common interest to them.
- To provide an opportunity for the leaders of the represented organizations to become acquainted with one another and to promote one of the truly Masonic ornaments, which is Brotherly Love.
- To promote an open line of communications between the leaders so that when communications of a formal nature are required they will occur in a pleasant and productive manner.
This meeting was attended by all concordant bodies within Alaska and was extremely well received. All present agreed to make this an annual occurrence, to schedule it in October, to rotate the hosting responsibility, and to use the meeting as a vehicle for coordinating calendars between all associated bodies.
• Grand Lodge Membership Statistics
2009 (Jan 1 – Aug 1)