SIDNEY — During ceremonies, Tuesday, Nov. 14, four long-time members of Temperance Lodge No. 73 Free and Accepted Masons in Sidney were honored with pins and certificates.
All Sidney residents, Jim Wildermuth was recognized for 35 years of membership; Ken McElroy, for 50 years; Donald Starrett, for 60 years; and O.B. Lindsey, for 70 years.
“Some of the people I worked with, they encouraged me,” Lindsey said of why he had joined the Masons seven decades ago.
“I think that’s pretty much how everyone starts out,” said McElroy. The men weren’t, however, asked by members to participate in Masonry. Current members never ask nonmembers to join. The request must always come from the would-be Mason.
“You knew people who were Masons and you respected them and you asked to join,” McElroy said.
The Free and Accepted Masons is a fraternal organization whose purpose, he added, is the betterment of the individual. Members abide by three tenets: brotherly love, relief and truth. They earn degrees by memorizing and participating in morality plays and other rites. Founded in England in 1717, there are lodges throughout the world and some 3.5 million men are members.
All of Tuesday’s honorees are 32nd degree Masons, the highest rank one can earn. The 33rd degree is an honorary one, bestowed by the deputy of the state organization for meritorius service to Masonry and the community.
Lindsey said not much has changed in the lodge since he joined in 1947. He has remained a member “because I wanted to,” he said. “It’s all about brotherly love. The people that were in it I loved, and they loved me. That was the reason. They were people I really enjoyed being with.”
Starrett said belonging has made him a better person than he would have been without it. He still remembers some of the lines he learned for his degree work.
“At one time, I knew it all,” he said, meaning that he could recite a whole play.
“There’s a tremendous amount of memorization work,” McElroy said. “Back in the early days, everybody did all the degree work by memory.”
The ritual scripts were passed down by word of mouth. Members working on degrees were paired with someone who already knew the parts.
If McElroy sees a difference in the last 50 years, it’s that “we’ve become a lot more enlightened,” he said. While in years past, the club was a social hub for members, now it plays an important role in a number of service projects.
“We sponsor blood banks. We got involved with helping with the United Way Christmas dinner. Special Olympics receives support from the Grand Lodge of Ohio, and we contribute to that,” he noted. “Early on, we had lots of social things in the lodge: father/son events, hog roasts. As the culture changed and we became more mobile, the lodge wasn’t the focal point anymore.”
It may not be the most important part of their lives, but the honorees were quite proud of their pins.
“It’s a privilege (to be a Mason this long),” Lindsey said. “It’s like growing old. You don’t regret growing old. It’s a privilege.”
Masons are known for supporting each other.
“You can always count on support when you need it — you and your family,” McElroy said. As an example, he recounted a time when he and his family were traveling and couldn’t find a hotel room at 4 a.m. until a desk clerk in Lexington, Kentucky, recognized the Masonic ring McElroy wore.
“He found us a place,” McElroy said.
It was help closer to home that made a big difference to Starrett.
“Five years ago, I had open-heart surgery. Paying the lodge dues was the last thing I was thinking about. The lodge went ahead and paid my dues to keep me up to date,” he said. “Now, it’s a pretty big honor to receive a 60-year pin.”
All the men have appreciated that membership has brought them into contact and friendship with people in all walks of life.
“For me, (Masonry is important for) the standards of discipline you set for yourself personally and publicly. You know others in the lodge have the same high standards,” McElroy said.
Starrett served as master of the local lodge in 1965. McElroy was the master in 1974 and was the lodge secretary for more than 20 years. Lindsey never held office, but he participated in a lot of ritual work.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.