Friday, July 31, 2009

Past Grand Masters

Today is one of those special days I will remember long after I have completed my term as Grand Master. I crashed a party of Past Grand Masters at the Gil Mor Manor in Morgan Minnesota where PGM Bill Tiffany (1968) lives.

You will see a photo of those attending: Front row, Verne Long (1972), Bill Tiffany (1968), Tom McCarthy (2009). Back row, Don Flood (1985), J.V. Christianson (1997), Lois Tiffany (baker of WONDERFUL pies!), John Peterson (1981), Sam Dickenson (1980) and Don Sether (1986).

I sat like a quiet mouse at the end of the table, and listened to all the wonderful stories of picky monitors, wrong answers given during the ritual, PGMs no longer with us. Thanks to Sam Dickenson who made the original phone calls to get these fine Masons together!

J.V. did a poll around the table and calculated that there were 418 years of Masonry in that room. Wow!

PGM Bill reminisced that he was in Shanghai, China after the war, and attended a lodge there as a Seaman First Class. The brothers initiated a candidate that night - a general in the Chinese army. Bill noted that we do, in fact, meet on the level!

Don Flood told of attending a Masonic function in Japan after the war and being invited to a room in the lower level of the building - a conference room with a long table. He was invited to sit in a certain chair, and when he had, was informed that was the chair used by Admiral Yamamoto when he planned the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Verne told of being called by Grand Master Clyde Hegman, who asked if he'd be a District Representative. GM Clyde said he'd call back in a week, and then gave PGM Verne advice he recalls and lives by to this day: Never turn down the opportunity to serve, You'll be the loser.

PGM Bill won't be able to join us this coming Monday noon for a Past Grand Masters' lunch, but this afternoon has whet my appetite for more stories from the Masonic leaders that have set the table for Minnesota Masonry today.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tisha B'Av

The ritual of the Masonic degrees involves a mythical incident during the building of King Solomon's Temple. In both the York and Scottish Rite degrees, the story is carried on through the destruction and rebuilding of that temple.

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of Av) is the Jewish day commemorating the destruction of King Solomon's Temple in 70 B.C.E This year, it falls on July 30.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon and was the most important place in ancient Judaism. It was destroyed when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. The Second Temple was built on the site of the First Temple and was completed in 516 B.C.E. Sadly, the Second Temple was also destroyed, this time during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The destruction of the two Temples took place on the same day – the ninth of Av - about 656 years apart. These two events were so tragic that the ancient rabbis declared the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction a day of mourning. This is the origin of Tisha B'Av.

The ninth of Av also happens to be the day that Jews were expelled from England in 1290, as well as the day that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. Any way you look at it, the ninth of Av has not been a good day for the Jewish people.

Tisha B'Av should remind Masons that intolerance has been with us for thousands of years. That does NOT mean it is inevitable and will be with us for thousands of more years. Now is the time to take a stand, end intolerance, and truly live as Brothers.

Thanks to Worshipful Master Jay Weinblatt for reminding me of this day and blog topic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bloomington Lodge Hiram Award

Bloomington Lodge held its last Hiram Award dinner tonight. If plans go as expected, Bloomington Lodge will merge with Minnehaha Lodge in November.

Brothers Ron Campbell and Paul Matuschek were recognized as the 2008 and 2009 Hiram recipients. The photo shows District representative Don Nolly, Brother Campbell, yours truly, Brother Matuschek, 2009 W.M. Jay Weinblatt and 2008 W.M. Raul Valverde.

Rabbi Harold Kushner has written that rather than seeking to be the star of the show, we should aspire to be the Best Supporting Actor. Hiram, King of Tyre, was the best supporting actor in the building of King Solomon's Temple. While we have two Hirams in the ritual of the Master Mason degree, I would maintain that it is Hiram, King of Tyre that exemplifies the dedication and service, often out of the public eye and behind the scenes, that best explains the criteria for selecting a Hiram recipient - the highest honor a lodge can bestow on its members.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday - A Precious Jewel

"America has give to the world a precious jewel. It has shown that a government whose concerns are purely secular and which leaves to the individual conscience of its citizenry all obligations that relate to God is the one which is actually the most friendly to religion. It is a precious jewel that we have. We should guard it well." Leo Pfeffer, in Earl Raab, Ed., Religious Conflict (1964).

The values of Minnesota Masonry include Freedom, Integrity and Tolerance. Each of these is represented in the quote above: The right to worship free from interference by the government is a central right granted by the First Amendment; Men of integrity can respect another man's beliefs without feeling that his own are threatened; Tolerance of other's belief is a vital part of Freemasonry in all its aspects.

We do well to protect that Precious Jewel, for our country and for our fraternity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Masonic Discipline

Masons accept into our fraternity only just and upright men who have a belief in a Supreme Being. Not only do we do an investigation and elect our candidates by unanimous ballot, we each take an obligation acknowledging that we are subject to Masonic discipline should we violate our vows.

Prior to becoming Grand Master, I served for several years as Chief Trial Commissioner for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. The powers, duties and procedures of the Trial Commission are clearly set forth in the Minnesota Masonic Code, available to all to read.

There are several ways in which a Brother may be disciplined. The most streamlined method is when a Brother is convicted of a felony offense. Certified copies are delivered to the Chief Trial Commissioner, who then sends notice to the Brother offering an opportunity to respond to the facts. These situations almost always result in the expulsion of the offending Brother.

A more complicated and involved process is when a Mason is accused of unmasonic conduct, not amounting to a felony criminal offense. The Code provides for a trial in front of three past masters, who render a verdict (that is, whether or not unmasonic conduct was committed) and also set the penalty – reprimand, suspension or expulsion.

The accused has the right to appeal the decision of the Trial Commission, which first goes before the Committee on Grievances and Appeals, which makes a recommendation to the Grand Lodge. I do not recall ever having a trial at the Grand Lodge annual communication, but that is where the appeal would lie.

As Grand Master, I have the power to arrest the jewel of an officer (effectively, removing the brother from office) and to suspend a brother until the next annual communication. I have not had to do either of these duties, and sincerely hope I never will.

Over the years, I have found that cases of Masonic discipline are very rare. You could look at the reports I made to the Annual Communication for the past several years to confirm this. By and large, we come close to our goal of being a society of just and upright men.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Class of '67

I took a break from Masonic activities last night and caught up with some dear friends from the Arlington-Green Isle class of 1967. We missed our 35th and 40th reunions, so a few of my classmates decided we should throw ourselves a 60th birthday bash. You can see a photo of those attending.

Patty and I had a great time reminiscing and catching up on what has been happening in the lives of people we used to see every day. (Patty and I were high school sweethearts - though she is MUCH younger - so she knew as many people there as I did.)

I'm reminded of a little song my girls did when they were in Girl Scouts:

Make new friends, and keep the old -
One is silver and the other gold.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Unobstructed Eye

I'm re-reading a nice little book by a Jesuit that makes some interesting and provocative points. The book is Awareness by Anthony DeMello. The thought for today comes from an Oriental sage that he quotes:

If the eye is unobstructed, it results in sight;
if the ear is unobstructed, the result is hearing;
if the nose is unobstructed, the result is a sense of smell;
if the mouth is unobstructed, the result is a sense of taste;
if the mind is unobstructed, the result is wisdom.

When I read that, I was reminded of the Middle Chamber lecture in the Fellowcraft Degree, where the five senses are described and explained, and that section ends with "on the mind, all knowledge must depend. What, therefore, can be a more proper subject for examination by a Mason?"

DeMello adds one more sentence to the ancient proverb:

If the heart is unobstructed, the result is love.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Excelsior Lodge Visit

On Tuesday night, I had the privilege of attending the awards dinner for Excelsior Lodge No. 113. They are located in a very attractive building in downtown Excelsior. The lovely exterior of the building was more than matched by the warm reception I received inside the lodge building.

Brother Edwin Scheller (middle in photo) was recognized as a 50-year member of Minnesota Masonry, and Gerald Schoberg (second from right) received his 25-year pin. Congratulations to these two great Masons!

Also shown in the photo, from the left, are District Representative Dean Dorholt and Worshipful Master Steven Maslonka.

Attending these events where Masons are honored is one of the true privileges of being the Grand Master. Thanks to all who have invited me, and especially to the brothers at Excelsior Lodge.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

40 years ago, Brother Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin was on the moon, along with Neil Armstrong. The photo was taken seven months earlier by the crew of Apollo 8.

Contemplating this poignant photo reminds me of the song, popular a few years ago, "From a Distance." The earth looks so fragile and beautiful, hanging in space, that a person must wonder how its inhabitants can waste time hating another person just because he calls the Grand Architect by a different name.

Masons should try to look at "the big picture" once in awhile to remind ourselves to put the petty differences and beliefs in perspective.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Small Step

Forty years ago this evening, I was in my girlfriend’s living room, watching the black and white television with her family as Neil Armstrong took the small step for man. (Tonight, after a lodge visit, I'll be back in the living room of that same girlfriend...)

The photo shows the footprint of the first Freemason on the moon, Brother Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin.

Brother Aldrin was one of ten United States astronauts who are Freemasons.

In many ways, the manned space exploration program is similar to Masonry: We look back with pride on the enormous accomplishments, but when pressed as to where we go from here, we're a bit stumped. Brother Aldrin has said, “The achievements of Apollo were so bold and our subsequent efforts so timid that the energy of those years seems like a youthful dream.”
Perhaps we need a visionary leader who will set for us an audacious goal, to be reached within the decade. A goal that at once challenges and inspires us.
I wish I were that visionary leader...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Masonic Motorcycle Club

On Friday, I was invited to attend the annual Masonic Motorcycle Club picnic at the Masonic Home. I met 50-year Mason and Zuhrah Shriner Dr. Sheldon Lagaard and his wife, Marguerite, as well as Ken Sulem, member of the Dan Patch Masonic Club at the Masonic Home. The residents were just thrilled to see and talk to the motorcycle riders!

To top off a great night, the Club made me an honorary member! The footlong hotdogs and hamburgers after were just a treat.

Thank you, members of the Minnesota Masonic Motorcycle Club, for another memorable evening! And many thanks to Bernie White of the Minnesota Masonic Home for these terrific photos and all she does for the residents at the Home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Waterbugs and Dragonflies

Today is a sad day. 12 years ago this day, my first grandson, Adam Charles Kelsey, as born. Just a few hours later, he died. We were able to hold him for a short time, so that is some comfort, but it is so very hard.

It is also a sad day because in a few hours, I will be leaving for Duluth and the Masonic Memorial Service for Worshipful Brother Anthony Keane. Those of you who knew Tony know that he was about the kindest man and Mason one could imagine. A most talented man, former Grand Lodge Education Officer and current Custodian of the Work in Northeast Minnesota. He was very active in the Scottish Rite, and especially so in the York Rite. He will be sorely missed.

The title of this entry is the title to a book that attempts to explain death to young children. The water bug turns into a dragonfly, but can't go back to explain he's OK to the other waterbugs. So it is when a loved one dies.

Masons consider death and life in the Celestial Lodge above. The assurance that we will meet again is some comfort, but cannot heal the empty place we have when a loved one dies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cataract / Minnehaha Joint Meeting

Last night, I attended the joint meeting between Cataract Lodge No. 2 and Minnehaha Lodge No. 165. What a great night! Over 60 brothers in attendance. A great steak dinner was followed by the joint stated communication and the presentation of the Bronze Lodge Recognition Program award to the Masters of each of the lodges.

Making these visits to lodges has been a real highlight of my year so far. Renewing old friendships and making new friends is just a treat.

And we said good bye to Worshipful Brother James Smail, who is returning to his native Australia later this month. (You can pick him out in the photo - first row, last one on the right. The only brother in a suit!) Jim has been Master of Cataract Lodge, Grand Orator for the Minnesota Grand Lodge and quite active in Scottish Rite during the past eight or so years. Good luck and Godspeed, Brother Jim!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tolerance Awareness Tuesday

The Scottish Rite of Masonry has several degrees that specifically relate to the issue of Tolerance. For instance, in the 20th Degree, the following is found:

Let the great light of toleration shine in our lodge. Toleration that fears to usurp God's prerogative, and holds that every man has an estate in fee in his opinions, and the absolute, ample right of free enjoyment. Let there be light!

When the Zuhrah unit lined up for the parade at the Imperial Session in San Antonio, I discovered we were at the San Antonio Scottish Rite Cathedral. The cornerstone of this edifice struck me as profound. I include a photo of it with this entry.

The Craft's emphasis on tolerance and respect is a key reason why I joined and remain an active member in the fraternity. I hope it is for you, too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fish Boil!

Senior Grand Steward John Gann and I were guests at the Mora Lodge No. 223 Fish Boil at the home of Dennis "Doc" Moss in Isle. After a wonderful dinner, at which there were three prospective members and their families, the brothers retired to a secluded spot outside of town for a stated communication.

The Grand Architect of the Universe supplied us with terrific weather. Brother John Hanson was a great chef (with some very small assistance from yours truly - see the photo!). The fellowship was fantastic.

And I learned the flaming truth about preparing fish in a fish boil!

PGM Jerry Rhoads was present and observed that this kind of event is where Masonry happens. I could not agree more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Parade Time!

The Zuhrah Ho Ho Shrine Club Classic Car unit invited me to participate in their parade at the Winthrop Farm City FunFest parade. I managed to keep the car between the curbs and not collide with any of the "professionals" of the unit.

The photo shows the unit saluting Patty along the parade route.

Earlier this week, I ran into a mom at the local convenience store who overheard that I'm a Shriner. "Shriners are miracle workers!" she said. "You saved my daughter!"

Celebrating the completion of the Partners for Life program and encountering a family who have been touched by the Shriners. It's been a pretty good couple of days!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shrine Imperial Session

Patty and I have returned from the Shrine Imperial Session in San Antonio with many good memories and many new friends. Again, HUGE thanks to the Shrines of Minnesota: Aad, Osman and especially Zuhrah, the temple to which I belong, for making us feel welcome and comfortable during our stay.

Zuhrah and Aad Temples joined for a cruise on the famous San Antonio Riverwalk Sunday evening, followed by a great dinner. On Monday evening, the Zuhrah Drum Corps got on a barge and serenaded downtown San Antonio for nearly an hour. They made a brief stop where a few of us were dining and played us a special tune. They were great!

Tuesday I marched along with Zuhrah 1.5 miles in 95 degree heat. The Drum Corps was fantastic! The reception from Shriners and San Antonians alike along the parade route was phenomenal. It was such a thrill.

Back at the hospitality room, there was a temporary shortage of glasses, so a magic marker was employed to put names on the plastic cups. I said, just put my initials: TGM. “Ah,” said one of the wags present, “The Grand Master!”

Patty and I had a great time. Thanks, Minnesota Shriners!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Partners for Life Celebration

Last night, Patty and I attended an event at the Minnesota Masonic Home celebrating the successful conclusion of the Masonic Charities/Cancer Center Fund Campaign for Life campaign. The campaign goal of $10 million dollars has been reached to finance the construction of a new Cancer Center Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

This contribution, together with the pledge of $65 million over the next 15 years and the approximately $25 million that has been given over the past 50+ years puts Minnesota Masons in the proud position of claiming partnership with the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota in the fight against this dread disease.

I have commented often that I dream of the time when my grandsons are my age and they can reminisce about how concerned their parents and grandparents were about cancer, and how proud they are that their Grandpa and their Dads were Masons and part of the effort that wiped that disease from the face of the earth.

Dreams can come true, especially if they are placed in the hands of dedicated, talented and skilled doctors and researchers. People like those at the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Flight Home

I had intended to blog today about some more activities Patty and I enjoyed at the Shrine Imperial Session. However, I had a very moving experience on the flight home, and need to tell you about it.

Patty and I ended up sitting in different rows - she directly in front of me. My row mate was a young man with some significant burn scars. His right ear was pretty much just a small mass of scar tissue. His face was more purple than any other color. His arms showed signs of burns, as did his right leg.

I found that he was heading home to Eden Prairie. I mentioned that I was coming from the Shrine session, and told him about the Shrine burn hospitals. He was impressed.

I then found he was heading home on leave from his base near San Antonio. He was a proud Marine of five years, and the injuries were sustained in the service of our country in Afghanistan. I must say I choked up pretty bad when I tried to say "Thank you".

This Marine is to be honorably discharged within the next several months. He hopes to attend college for a degree in law enforcement. I gave him my card, and encouraged him to drop me an e-mail so that I can forward to him an application for the next round of General Waldron Scholarships, which I expect the Grand Lodge corporate board will approve this Saturday.

I hope he writes me - I never did get his name. It was a privilege to share the row with this brave young man. Thank you, whoever you are.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shrine Imperial Session Review

Patty and I have had a wonderful time as the guests of the Minnesota Shriners at the 135thSan Antonio TX. I had the privilege of witnessing some historic debate on the future of the Shrine Children’s Hospitals. Like many organizations, the Shrine is having some financial issues. The delegates voted to keep all 22 hospitals open and to accept third-party payments (e.g., from insurance) in an effort to keep the organization fiscally sound.

There are many hospitals, including the Twin Cities Shrine Hospital, that are in negotiations with universities or medical centers to share facilities to better serve the patients of both. The Twin Cities Shrine Hospital has been in negotiations with the University of Minnesota to have a certain number of beds on a specific floor in the Amplatz Children’s Hospital, now under construction. Looking at this from the outside, it seems to me to be a win-win-win, with the biggest winners being the children we serve and will serve in this area.

Let us each do what we can to support this effort, which will be a new and exciting way for Shriners to continue our long-standing efforts to bring orthopedic, burn and cleft-pallet relief to deserving children.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Truman on Tolerance

"You know that being an American is more than a matter of where you or your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break. It is a respect for the dignity of men and women without regard to race, creed, or color. That is our creed." Harry S Truman, October 26, 1948.

Harry S Truman lived the Masonic values in every aspect of his life. I'm writing this in San Antonio Texas where there are many races and religions. What a great place to show off our Masonic values!

An even better place: Wherever we are at the time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Masons at the Alamo

Patty and I are at the Shrine Imperial Session in San Antonio Texas. We toured the Alamo yesterday. This is the sight of the famous battle between “Texicans” (mainly immigrants from the United States) and the Mexican army. Less than 200 Alamo defenders held off a Mexican force of ten times that number for 13 days before falling on March 6, 1836.

There were but few survivors.

Masons played an important role in the defense of the Alamo. Commanders William Barrett Travis and James Bowie were Masons, as was David Crocket and Almaron Dickinson (whose wife and infant daughter were among the survivors within the fortress).

Visiting an historic site involving many Masons (including Mexican general Santa Anna) on the one hand, and participating in what could very well be an historic Shrine session is a most humbling experience.

For more information on Masons at the Alamo, check out any of the links below:

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Freedom – Freemasons champion the liberties and values outlined in the founding documents of the United States of America. Grand lodge of Minnesota Mission/Values Statement.

Freedom is one of the core values that guide our Mission Statement. Along with (Personal) Integrity and (Religious) Tolerance, Freedom encapsulates the essence of Freemasonry in North America.

It has been legitimately claimed that the foundations of a republican form of government, the secret ballot and nascent democracy itself had its origins in the lodge halls of speculative Freemasonry.

Whether that is based in fact, or merely wishful history on the part of the brotherhood, it is and must be clear today that Freemasonry stands for Freedom, and it is the Duty of the brothers to protect and promote this fundamental Right of Man.

Declaration of Independence

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day Eve

On this holiday before Independence Day, I quote MWB Harry Truman. On July 29, 1951, Truman stated

"Now listen to this one.  This malicious propaganda has gone so far that on the Fourth
of July, over in Madison, Wisconsin, people were afraid to say that they believed in the
Declaration of Independence.
A hundred and twelve people were asked to sign a petition
that contained nothing except quotations from the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

One hundred and eleven of those people refused to sign that paper-- many of them because they were
afraid that it was some kind of subversive document and that they would lose their jobs or be called
Can you imagine finding 111 people in the capital of Wisconsin that didn't know what the
Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights provided?
I can't imagine it."

I wonder how many today would refuse to sign… Not because they would necessarily be afraid of being called a communist, but simply would not recognize language from our Country’s founding documents.

Masons were at the forefront of our fight for Liberty at the beginning of our country’s history. Masons have stood tall and in front each generation since. Masons today must carry on the tradition of our brothers. We must stand tall and educate ourselves and our countrymen to protect our most precious rights.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

MWB Humpty Dumpty

Who is the PGM who came out on the short end of a collision with metal bleachers? The one who is now known as "Humpty Dumpty" to many of his brothers? (Except that they couldn't put Humpty together, but this PGM has healed nicely, thank you.)

I am not permitted to tell you his name, but his initials are Steve Johnson.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Masters and Wardens

On Monday, I was pleased to attend the Metro East Masters and Wardens Association meeting at Newport Lodge. These are great opportunities to share ideas from lodge to lodge and discover new ways to collaborate.

There was a great report on the Metro East outdoor Master Mason degree. Nine new Masons were raised in a most impressive ritual. I’m looking forward to the next Metro East Third Degree on December 12, where I’ll have the privilege of taking the part of King Solomon!