I Still Hear Your Voice

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

Last Tuesday, I woke up early, stumbled downstairs, made coffee, and sat down at the computer to check Facebook. My friend Tony had been battling colon cancer, and his wife, Alex, had posted the day before that he was going in for surgery to try to control some bleeding, and that prayers would be appreciated. He’d been undergoing chemo, which is a nasty business with unpleasant but treatable side effects, so things like this didn’t seem unduly worrisome, at least at a distance. But then I saw the update: “Tony Ryan and his family would like us all to gather in prayer for his journey home to our Father.” I just sat there, staring, and then frantically started checking other friends’ pages for more information. It didn’t take long. Tony had died early that morning, and the expressions of shock, support, grief, and loss were soon almost overwhelming. We began reaching out, holding on to one another in our sorrow and disbelief.

As many as could arrange it made it to the visitation that Sunday. We’d all aged, some of us more than others, but we recognized one another in brief moments of joy that dissolved into tears. It’s good to see you, we’d say, but there’s nothing good about this. And we’d hold onto each other, and ask, in full knowledge it was a stupid question, how’s Alex doing? There’s no good answer to that, really, where real love is. “Terrible” is the only truthful one.

So we stood in line to express our sorrow to Alex and the rest of Tony’s family. We huddled in small stunned groups, exchanging banal observations. We hugged, talked, told stories, and cried. We tried not to think too much about the future.

My family and I had to leave before any of the music started, but we knew it would be amazing. Tony was the high tenor on so many of our choir performances, and we could always pick him out on our recordings. Alex is a brilliant pianist and singer, and many of us who’d made it to the visitation were in choirs and shows together. So there would be singing, with one voice absent above all others. But he would never forgive us if we didn’t sing.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there to join the singing that evening, or the next day at the funeral, but I’m not sure I’d have made it through without breaking down. But poetry can be written through tears. So I give you this, in the hopes it expresses something of what we all feel when someone so full of life and love dies far too soon.

For Tony Ryan, 1975-2013

We fear to leave the dying

even for a moment

as if they’ll be gone when we return

So we stay

and memorize them

as though preparing to take a test

on which our futures depend

And when they die

we arrange appropriate rituals

shuffle in line to give inadequate comfort

tell stories

watch pictures 

hastily found and arranged,

with music once shared 

now shared again

And through unimagined pain

We sing

 Rest in peace, my friend. I still hear your voice.


R. W. B. Michael H. Shirley is Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M, as well as a Certified Lodge Instructor and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. A Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332, a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua Wisconsin and he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

1,728.5 Miles & 48 Hours Later…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

This should stand as notice:
Never Threaten A Mason With A Good Time.

Asking yourself why? Read on and see how you might just get what you are asking for, but be warned, Brotherhood abounds!

Friday, November 15th, around 7AM (CST) a Brother made mention on his Facebook status that he was going to be making a journey from his home in Maryland to the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Virginia (just outside D.C.) with his wife and brother the next day.

Shortly after seeing this, I made the comment that I was jealous. Visiting this one particular landmark was in fact a “bucket list” item of mine, and had been for some time. In other research that I had done, I had come across some items that were on display that had a profound connection to Bro. Washington’s life and death.

Unsuspectingly, the Brother, Bro. Rob Walk, offered his “more than welcome to join us” response.
Being that I am in the middle of the Country and he is not far from the Memorial, I
understand the “safety” in his response. After all, who could make such a journey on
such short notice, right? About an hour later, another Brother chimed in and made note
that he too was jealous of their upcoming trip. And he was certainly not out of the way.
That is about where the conversation stopped, in the open anyway.

The private messaging and texting fired up almost immediately. As it seemed,
everything about this opportunity was lined up with no effort. I was able to get my only
obligation (care for my dog) lined up and headed off to the store for the “essentials”
when contemplating an all night road trip. I also tossed my two 5 gallon gas cans in the
bed of my truck, just incase… By 9:30 P.M.,  I was in IL waiting for Bro. Johnson to get
home from work. I picked him up and onward we sped. Literally. If we wanted to make
the meeting time of 11:00AM (EST), we would have to shave some significant time from
the trip. It worked out as mathematically probable, so we went for it.

You see, there is a Masonic Symposium during the summer next year in Illinois, and
Bro. Walk has committed to journeying this way to attend. What better way to return the
Brotherhood, than for us to journey to him for the same.

A few fuel stops and “Chinese Fire Drills” later we were pulling into the George
Washington Masonic Memorial. At 10:52AM (EST). Perfect timing!

We met up with Bro. Walk, his wife & brother, and got our tickets for the guided tour.
Personally, it felt like we had always known each other. One of the many benefits of
Freemasonry, wherever you may travel, you are sure to have a Brother. The tour was
great. The artifacts did not disappoint. If anyone has the chance to make the journey to
this site, I highly recommend it. We saw 3 floors of the 9. I can’t help but wonder what
the other floors held.

Afterwards, we headed out for lunch together and said our goodbyes afterwards. They
were heading to check out some sites in DC and we were heading home. For whatever reason, the stars were aligned and this journey went off without a hitch. Well, we will see if I get any “nasty grams” from the PA Turnpike Authority… I dropped Bro. Johnson off at home before 5:00AM Sunday and made my way home.

My day had started Friday just before 6:00AM and was finally over Sunday at 5:55AM
as I backed my truck in to the garage after 1,728.5 miles. And some really good


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a husband and father of two. Bro. Brian is also the lead contributor to the Brothers In Arms blog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"

The Lambskin

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Scott Lamb

I was standing on the checkerboard floor listening to a man I had never met. He was holding a white object that I had heard about and had even seen on the internet but never in person. 

My initiation into the fraternity had been great. The brothers had performed their parts without a hitch as far as I knew. It had been a solemn and spiritual affair. As Brother Hamilton looked at me he started with his lecture. 

Many things were going on at this time in my life, and all of the adversities that I had been through laid heavy on my mind. Up to this point I had lost a son, a grand daughter and a close friend that may as well have been my child. I had been looking for something that could ease my pain that I had been feeling for 15 years. I lost my son at a scout camp. A place where he should have been safe. Due to the carelessness of a "professional" leader he was killed in a tragic accident. This made no sense to me at all. I had lived my life as good as I could. I was a regular church goer and always tried to live a Christian life. I didn't understand why God would allow this to happen. My life had went on and I had felt for the most part that I had been just going through the motions.

Brother Hamilton started with the lines -- I now present you with a lambskin. It's the badge of a mason-- These words caught my attention. He was holding the apron up for me to see. He told me how ancient it was and how great an honor it was that he would be giving to me. As the speech went on I listened carefully to what he had to say, I think that there was some influence from the other side there for me. He went through explaining it, then came to the last part. -- when your  soul stands alone, before the Throne, may you hear my brother,  from the Judge Supreme, the welcome words: Well done though good and faithful servant; enter though into the joy of thy Lord.--I stood there with chills on my arms. For some reason those words were the words I needed to hear at that time. They spoke to my soul and calmed it. Even as I write these words, tears come to my eyes over the turmoil and anger  I had felt. They made me realize that this life is only temporary for any of us and those who have passed on are with our Maker. We are the ones left here that grieve because we can't be with them for awhile. I also came to the realization that I wanted to be worthy to hear those words from That Great Judge myself, how beautiful that would be. It humbled me to receive the Lambskin and made me take stock of my life and figure out how to become better.

Since that time I have had the honor of giving that lecture two times. The first time to my son and the second to an old dear friend of 35 years. It meant so much so much to me to be able to give that lecture. At that time I had found out that my father had terminal cancer. In fact he lived for about 5 weeks after his diagnosis. With this on my heart I gave the lecture but it was not from a feeling of sadness but one of thankfulness. It was an honor to say those same words to my son and my friend. 

What a great blessing we have to belong to a fraternity that meets on the level. Accepts a man for what he has in his heart. I have not been a Mason for a very long time at all but it is the vehicle that helped me to come back to be again the person that I set out to be.


Bro. Scott Lamb first became interested in Masonry when his son Andy was admitted to Shriners hospital in Salt Lake City. He recalls the great experience he had there. His son actually had 7 surgeries there and that experience is what drove his interest. He had studied freemasonry for quite awhile after that but has only been a Mason since February. He was initiated in February, and Raised on April 30, 2013. He is a member of Damascus #10 lodge in Provo, Utah. He is also a member of the El Kalah Shrine  He will be attending the 222nd reunion of the Orient of Utah. His son Andy is now a Master mason as well. They both feel a strong commitment to help the Shrine with their great work. Some additional information Brother Lamb found was that he is adopted and after researching his biological parents, found that his Birth father was a Master Mason with many accomplishments. His biological maternal grandfather was WM of his lodge and a Scottish Rite Mason as well. Scott was quoted as saying "...so I guess it is in my blood. I feel humbled and motivated to become as good a Mason as they were."


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Judy Gordon

The real secret of success is enthusiasm. - Walter Chrysler

I have written several stories about my involvement with Job’s Daughters. You see, I have been involved with this great organization since I have been three years old. I was my aunt’s flower girl for her Honored Queen’s installation. In my mind, I was the best flower girl EVER! But if you should talk to her, I am sure she would give you a different story.

Just recently our Bethel (#55 Pekin) had a prospective party (inviting young ladies to learn about our organization). We invited another bethel (#111 Elmwood) to join us and they brought prospective members as well. This was also a Halloween party so a prerequisite was a costume. If not, a donation to H.I.K.E. would be made. The Master of Empire lodge #126 was the judge for the costume party and he was impressed that both Bethel's worked together and were enthused with what they doing.

Of the six prospects that came to the party, two have been initiated already (#55); and one girl that has been initiated has a petition filled out and she hasn’t even been to her first meeting after initiation!!! She was so impressed with our bethel that she asked a friend to join us. Now that is what I call enthusiasm!!!

Enthusiasm comes from the top and works its way down. As I see local bethels grow, the girls notice the enthusiasm from their Bethel Guardian and the council members. If they have enthusiasm, the girls will catch it and you will see the bethel grow.

As you can see these young ladies are so enthusiastic, I wish I could bottle and sell it!!
Get excited, show your enthusiasm, be proud, I am!!!!


Judy Gordon is very active in Job's Daughters. She's the Past Honored Queen, and Past Bethel Guardian of Bethel No. 55, Pekin (IL). She received the Cryptic Masons Masonic Youth Leadership Award along with her husband, Ray Gordon in July 2007. She's also Past Matron of the Morton Chapter No. 974 (IL) of the Order of the Eastern Star and Historian of the Emblem Club No. 424 of Pekin (IL). Judy is the recipient of the Degree of Royal Purple (2012) and elected to the Grand Line Illinois Job's Daughters (2015-16). Boaz joined the family in September 2013 and grandmother of 3 wonderful grandsons.

I Was A Mason Before I Entered A Lodge

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Rob Walk

The Rockville Bridge in Marysville,
 PA.The longest stone arch bridge in the world.
This weekend, the weekend of October 26th, a lot was going on. My parents just brought home a new Bassett Hound puppy, my wife and I's 3rd Annual Hershey Park in the Dark, Jepthah Lodge's covered dish dinner, the PA Renaissance Faire. Honestly, I could go on. Unfortunately we had to skip dinner at the lodge in favor of coming back home for the weekend -- back to Pennsylvania.

You see, I'm from Pennsylvania. Perry County, Pennsylvania to be exact. My wife and I both come from big, loving families in this area. It had been a month since we've been up to visit family from our new home in Northern Maryland. As I was driving back to pick up my wife, from seeing Mom and Dad "out the valley", I decided to take a little drive through my old hometown. I took the back roads like I used to, remembering all the great times I had there, with buddies from high school, driving around in that beat up Firebird Jim used to have.

I decided to take a drive up one street in particular -- Sylvan Street. It wasn't often that I drove back this street, but when I did one building in particular always stuck out at me: Perry Lodge No. 458, F.&.A.M. I always wondered what the building was for, what Freemasonry was, why those old men from my hometown wore those giant gold rings with the square and compasses on them. What did it really mean to them to be able to call themselves Masons?

It is only at this point in time, being 26 years old and a newly minted Mason, that I can begin to understand what it means to take such a step in a man's life. Truthfully, I wasn't ready to take the step -- but is any Man ever honestly prepared for such a commitment? I believe that question is the very basis for taking the next step in the first place. 

Once upon a time, at the ripe old age of 20, I began contemplating taking the step into Freemasonry as my honest-to-God initiation into Manhood. At the time I was the Logistics Manager for a humble local live sound company that did work in Central PA, and other locations in the mid-Atlantic region. I became interested in the square and compasses in general, and what they meant symbolically just for myself as a non-Mason. I purchased a book called Freemasons for Dummies, by Bro. Christopher Hodapp. In it I read about many great men that were a part of the fraternity, its basic tenets, the manner in which these great men conducted themselves, etc.

Highly impressed as I was, I asked my boss at the sound company, who is also a great friend of mine, what he knew of and thought about the Freemasons. He told me that they were a great group of men, and indeed his Grandfather was among the likes of them. He told me that he contemplated joining many times, but just could not bring himself to do it, because he could not possibly keep anything from his, at the time, girlfriend. So, though I thought so highly of it, eventually it fell by the wayside, and I moved on. My personality and mannerisms at the time would not have allowed Greatness to come about within me. I was an anti-socialite. A punk-rocker. I wore the Chuck Taylor Converses, black shirts, ripped jeans and so forth, and didn't think much of the old men that surrounded me. In fact, I thought they were the lowest of the low, and how could I possibly join the likes of them, being the rebellious tween that I was?

Yes, I was an anti-socialite, trying to go against the grain, love everyone, and be everything to everybody. A couple years later, 24 years old, I met my future wife. I was still a punk, but somehow, she made me want to be a better person, a better man. She brought feelings from within me that truly began to change my ways. So one day, as I was driving through town, I passed by the local Masonic lodge, and a new seed took root in my mind. Could it be time to join Freemasonry?

I watched the videos of the Ben Franklin impersonator, and was asked, "Is there Greatness in you?" At the time, I was working at a local credit union. A regular member walked up to me, at the teller line, and for the first time I noticed that famous golden ring on his hand -- square and compasses emboldened in red upon it. Immediately, as I recognized that ring, I asked him what lodge he belonged to.

Of course it was, "Perry Lodge in Marysville. Do you know it?" "I sure do. I'm from Marysville, myself. In fact I've been thinking of becoming a Mason. How can I do that?" Sure enough, that Brother had a petition right in his pocket. He handed it to me, I filled it out, and the next time he saw me he signed my first line as we stood there on the teller line. He took it to the lodge with him at the next stated meeting, and the wheels were set in motion. I was excited, I was full of hope, I was shaking from nervousness. But I shouldn't have been nervous.

It was such at the time that I was taking classes at the local community college, dating my future wife, working a full time job, etc. And when the call came around from the investigative committee, I was relaxing in the living room with her. I saw the number on my phone, and was reluctant to pick it up, because by this time, I had already made the determination that I wasn't ready for the commitment. There was not enough time in my life to make the meetings and do the work. I was going to tell him that I would be withdrawing my petition.

So, I did. Yet again, I wasn't ready. By the time her and I moved in together into Essex, Maryland, I had been contemplating joining for 5 years. I was now 25, full time job, renting an apartment with my fiancĂ©. Finally, I had time. No school, no extra-curriculars; just work and being a man of the house. I had been reading The Midnight Freemasons blog, as I had been doing for a straight three weeks -- article, after article, after article. I decided to finally look up the local lodge.

There it was -- Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, MD. I emailed them and waited. After about two weeks I received a reply back from the Lodge Secretary, and was asked to come visit one night for dinner. I was nervous and waited a couple of weeks, but finally one day decided I was going to go and knock on their door. I filled out the petition, but it said on the petition that a man must be of residence of the state of Maryland for at least one year.

Again, I wasn't ready. I had only been living there since August of 2012. It was January of 2013.

I submitted the petition anyway, and with the help of Jephthah Lodge was able to finally be initiated on October 15th of 2013. They were given permission from the Grand Lodge of Maryland, so it took a little time for the process to continue -- a long ten months to be exact -- but it was certainly worth it.
So, what truly makes a man ready to join the fraternity and become a Freemason?

The truth is that a man is never completely ready to take that step. It is the Greatness within him, given by God himself, that will make him ready to join. From what I can see, it is Masonry itself that makes you ready for the next step after that, as the time and work are put in at the quarry. No man is perfect, that is made quite evident by what we as Masons do, along with the life experiences that we continue to encounter day after day in our personal journeys. If we continue to wait until the perfect time to take the next step, the next step will take an eternity to make. I found out as much over my own five years of contemplation, and I will never regret making the decision.

My journey has finally begun, and my heart thanks me every day for it.


Bro. Robert Walk is the creator and sole writer for On Freemasonry and Humble Pie: a Tumblr blog dedicated to his experiences and journey from being a petitioner, to initiate, to the journey to being raised. A dialysis technician being his main work, he enjoys writing, rock climbing, drumming and craft beer in his free time. He is the youngest Entered Apprentice at Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, MD, and is, at present, working on proficiency.

Freemasons & The Military

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian J Schimian

I do not have an outline or bullet-points for this. What I do have is a challenge that has been
issued, a full pot of coffee, half a bottle of Alpha Brain, an internet connection and nothing on the
calendar. So strap yourself in and bare with me for what should be an interesting trip through

The Tun Tavern
If you want to see a correlation between the United Sates Military and Freemasonry, all you need to do is look at any of the pictures of George Washington. He was the first elected President, he was a Freemason and he was one of the Countries great military leaders. But there is more to the story than, ‘ol George. If you look at Masonry and the tenants you learn therein, you can look at the military and see many correlations in the brotherhood and bonds that develop between men. As deep as those bonds of Brotherhood run, so do the bonds that tie our Nation’s Military to Freemasonry.

In 1733, Henry Price (Grand Master of North America for the Grand Lodge of England) granted
a charter to a group of Boston Freemasons. This lodge was later named St. John's Lodge and
was the first duly constituted lodge in America. The first meeting of St. John’s Lodge #1 was
held in a building known as the Tun Tavern.

On November 10, 1775 the United States Marine Corps was officially formed by a vote of the
Continental Congress. Captain Samuel Nicholas was named the first Commandant of the
Marine Corps. Robert Mullan (the proprietor of Tun Tavern ) was appointed to raise two
companies of Marines. So it was, the very first Continental Marines were recruited in Tun
Tavern, and it became the birthplace of the U.S. Marine Corps 238 years ago (yesterday, November 10 2013).

The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston was the meeting place of St. Andrew’s Lodge. On the
night of December 16, 1773 there was to be a meeting of these Brethren. The minutes state
that the meeting was “closed on account of few Brethren present.” I can confirm without a
doubt, that this artifact does exist and I have seen it… Well, a copy of it. A few decades ago,
my father was helping me with a research paper I was doing for school. He had the time and
love of research and somehow came up with a copy of these meeting minutes. 

This 8.5” by 11” piece of history is one of those things I wish I could reach back and save for eternity. Perhaps by virtue of the internet, a few long distance phone calls and an email later, I can share with you what I saw for myself all those years ago. This copy of the handwritten entry in the Secretary’s
book had a few names scrawled on it and then one very particular set of initials. One that lends
itself to an act that would thrust the fledgling colonies into a war with Great Britain. Three
simple letters, S.O.L. A few hours later, Boston Harbor was full of crates of tea and a revolution
had begun. It is no coincidence that membership rolls of St. Andrew’s Lodge holds names like Paul Revere, William Molineux, John Hancock & Joseph Warren. On a side note, American’shave been drinking coffee ever since… According to the English, American’s lost their rase for
tea because of their peculiar way of mixing it with salt water…

Many Masons made their names on the battlefield. Some of the earliest were John Paul Jones
and the Marquis de Lafayette, heroes of the American Revolution. Benedict Arnold was a noted
Mason (he was expelled because of his treason during the war).

Many soldiers who fought on opposite sides in the Civil War were members of the same
fraternal order, including the Confederacy's George Pickett and the Union's Joshua
Chamberlain, both of whom fought at Gettysburg.

The first recorded acts of Masonic charity during the Civil War occurred during the Battle of Bull
Run, July 21, 1861. This story of a wounded officer, Col. W.H. Raynor (1st. Ohio), finding quarter
and assistance with J.H. Lemon (Raford’s Cavalry) after being wounded and captured by the
enemy, is the just one of many during this brutal war between Brethren.

Another example is found with Fellowcraft L.J. Williams (114th N.Y. Vol.), being captured &
imprisoned around Savannah, GA. Through communications with his home Lodge and a local
Lodge, Williams, wearing this Union Blues, was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason
by officers wearing Confederate Gray. That night Williams “escaped.” When asked how he was
able to get away, he said it was hardly an escape. He had been taken by boat in the dark of
night to the enemy lines and set free. He attributed his “escape” to Hiram.

Even Masonic Hall’s were saved from the destruction of 4 years of war. As was the case in
Richmond, VA when during the Confederate retreat. There are differing accounts on exactly
how the Hall was not destroyed or looted with the rest of the City, but all 3 are Masonic in
The Official Masonic Civil War Monument - Gettysburg National Military Park

(Scource: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/masonicmuseum/friend_to_friend_monument.htm)
With every conflict going forward from the beginning of this Country, examples can be found of 
Masonic Lodges, practices and even charity towards the enemy. It makes perfect sense that 
fabric of the military might of our Nation is intertwined with the history of Freemasonry. Even 
those in the armed forces who have not been initiated, passed & raised, carry with them the 
same thoughts and ideals that we as Master Masons carry every day. If you speak to a service 
member and question the missions they are charged with, one idea is continually raised, and it 
is not far off from: “Making Good Men Better.” They will certainly all affirm to you that they would 
gladly lay down their own life for a Brother.

So, on this Veteran’s Day, let us take pause and remember those that have come before us,
those that protect our freedoms today and this that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in combating 
evil, wherever it may show its head.

It is estimated that 22 veterans take their own life each day.

Let us not forget what they have given for us.

I was born in antiquity, in the ancient days when men first dreamed of God. I have been tried 
through the ages, and found true. The crossroads of the world bear the imprint of my feet, and 
the cathedrals of all nations mark the skill of my hands. I strive for beauty and for symmetry. In 
my heart is wisdom and strength and courage for those who ask. Upon my alters is the Book of 
Holy Writ, and my prayers are to the One Omnipotent God, my sons work and pray together, 
without rank or discord, in the public mart and in the inner chamber. By signs and symbols I 
teach the lessons of life and of death and the relationship of man with God and of man with 
man. My arms are widespread to receive those of lawful age and good report who seek me of 
their own free will. I accept them and teach them to use my tools in the building of men, and 
thereafter, find direction in their own quest for perfection so much desired and so difficult to 
attain. I lift up the fallen and shelter the sick. I hark to the orphans' cry, the widows tears, the 
pain of the old and destitute. I am not church, nor party, nor school, yet my sons bear a full 
share of responsibility to God, to country, to neighbor and themselves. They are freemen, 
tenacious of their liberties and alert to lurking danger. At the end I commit them as each one 
undertakes the journey beyond the vale into the glory of everlasting life. I ponder the sand within 
the glass and think how small is a single life in the eternal universe. Always have I taught
immortality, and even as I raise men from darkness into light, I am a way of life. I Am 

- Ray V. Denslow, 1933


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a husband and father of two. Bro. Brian is also the lead contributor to theBrothers In Arms blog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"

Freemasonry's Better Half

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason

Todd and Valerie Creason at a Scottish Rite luncheon (2011)
"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."
~Winston Churchill
Studholme Lodge No. 1591, England

In my part of the world, we have a practice when it comes to investigating a petitioner that from what I understand, isn't that widespread.  When our investigating committee calls to arrange a time to meet with a petitioner, if he's a married man--we invite his wife to join us!

It's true.  And there's good reasons for it.  It's a good place to ask questions.  It's a good chance to introduce his wife to who we are, what we do (and don't do), and the things that are important to us.  And of course the most important reason is obvious.  It's unlikely he's going to ever be very involved in Freemasonry if his wife doesn't support his decision to join the Lodge.

Valerie (with helper) managing our trail run
My wife, Valerie, wasn't that thrilled when I brought up the idea of joining the Masonic Lodge.  We'd been down that road before.  I'd briefly been active in another organization some years earlier (I won't say which one).  My friend and I went to the meeting every month for awhile.  The meeting started at 7, the bar opened at 7:30, and I'd wind up walking home at some hour well after Midnight.  I was a little younger then, but it caused problems in the marriage to say the least.  I still pay my dues, but it's been a decade since I've attended a meeting.

But it was pretty clear to her that this was different when three Masons arrived at our house and talked to us about Freemasonry.  They had a few questions for me, and we had a lot of questions for them.  When they finally left, Valerie was almost as excited at the prospect of me being involved in the Fraternity as I was. 

I'm gone quite a bit, and when I'm not attending something Freemasonry related, I'm writing something Freemasonry related.  It's a very involving hobby of mine.  Oddly enough, there's never been one argument in my house about me leaving to go to a meeting--in fact, she'll look at me some evenings and say "isn't there a meeting you could go to?"  She told me one time she doesn't mind me going to meetings and events, because she realizes she has benefited from Freemasonry as much as I have--she's wound up with a better product than the one she married.

My story isn't unique.  It would be impossible for our Fraternity to thrive without the support of our wives.  They don't just let us go to the meeting, most of our wives are right there doing a lot of the work. 
Those two have obviously grown pretty comfortable in a lodge room
I've very fortunate in that department.  I sometimes wonder how many hours Valerie and I have sat at the kitchen table folding, stamping and addressing newsletters.  Or writing out invitations and thank you cards.  I wonder how many tables and chairs she's helped set up and take down.  I wonder how many events she's helped me organize and plan.  She's designed posters, printed event tickets, helped me organize two Masonic Charity Trail Runs, and then gotten up the day of the event and manned the registration trailer herself.  And when our Lodge orders polo shirts from the Secretary (me) to wear at our events, and when they arrive and everyone has the right size and color--well, I'm not the genius behind that miracle.  Thank Valerie for sorting out that mess.  On top of that, I wonder how many hours she's spent reading my blog posts, articles, and book chapters long before anyone else sees them.

A rare occasion when I actually remembered to thank my wife . . .
And guess who we always manage to forget to thank at these events?  You guessed it--our spouses.
Always remember that behind any successful Lodge, there's often a collection of very dedicated and hardworking spouses that rarely receive the recognition and thanks they deserve.  So let me just say to all of you right here . . . thank you!  There's no way we could do the things we do without you.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL).

Uncharted Journeys or Unknown Conspiracies

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian J. Schimian

Well, thanks to a combination of the Midnight Freemasons Curse, an overdose of Alpha Brain and an undoubtedly unhealthy helping of giardiniera on a late salad after returning home from a particularly interesting City Council meeting, I am unable to slumber and am ready to write out the recent tribulations of my life...

The past few years have certainly seen some major changes in my family's life.  Some good some not so intriguing and some down right scary...  Many aspects of my journey through life certainly have not been willingly planned as a select few may have been.  I have been involved in, and with out a doubt, influenced by public service and charity towards others my entire life.  The rock solid pillars and exemplars in my life are my father and his father (wether I knew it growing up or not).

My grandfather held many jobs early in his life and joined the Marine Corps at the onset of WWII.  Growing up in the 80’s, both my parents worked full-time and thus my sister and I spent the summer weeks living at my grandparents home. After the war, my grandfather settled into accounting and was a very successful businessman.  My summers found me traveling with him across the country by car and even along for a business trip to London.  You can say that the amount of time spent under his wing instilled some of his “Greatest Generation” ideals.  He used to always take potential business partners out to the Country Club and pay for a round of 18 holes.  He kept both his and the other guy's score.  At the end of the day, over a gin & tonic I am sure, he would compare his score card to the potential partners score card.  Pops always said, "If a guy can’t be trusted at golf, how can you trust him at business?".  My Pops was certainly a man of integrity and I never heard him complain, ever, about anything.  Well, until his later years, but by then he had more than earned the right to air his opinions.  Yet he would only do so in his own home.

My father grew up in a little more rough and tumble home than I enjoyed during my summers with Pops.  He also joined the military only he enlisted during Viet Nam and he did it prior to being drafted.  He said if he was going to GET volunteered, it was at least going to be somewhat on his own terms.  He spent a number of years guarding the 101st Airborne & SF bases around Southeast Asia.  After returning from serving his Country, Dad was hired as a police officer and would remain committed to protecting and serving for almost 30 years.  I do not think I one could ever come across a more committed and loyal person than my father.  That goes for both sides of the coin, if he liked you, he had your back no matter how thick it got.  If you crossed him or anyone he was looking out for, you were in for some bad days, weeks, months and in a few cases years.  My father’s virtue of patience equalled that of his cunning & relentlessness...  That didn’t go so well for some people, especially those that were creatures of habit.  He could also BS his way into or out of ANYTHING!  The man certainly had a gift.  He also maintained the perception of his position as that of, being there to help others.

Early on, my father joined Freemasonry and the two fit together like a custom designed glove on your hand.  The same goes for the Shrine.  He even found his own mini-t for parades and we spent the winter tearing it apart, paining and fixing it up.  I spent so much time around public service and Masonry as a child that the members of the Lodge and Shrine Club half expected me to be on my dad’s heels, no matter the occasion.  To the point that the first question out of them was, “Where is Slick Jr.?” if I was around.  I helped around the Lodge at all the functions and at almost every parade that I could make.  When I learned about DeMolay, I couldn’t get my hands on a petition fast enough.

Skipping ahead to present day...  As I sit in my office writing, it is past one in the morning.  A few hours ago I came home from a local City Council meeting, nothing out of the ordinary for just over a year and a half of living in my beautifully quiet town of 3,000 people.  However, during this walk home I had a particular bounce to my step.  About a month ago, the Alderman  for my Ward had resigned after just being reelected in April.  In the months since moving in, I had made a point to be at almost every Council meeting and even became appointed to some committees for the town.  I had made my presence and willingness to help known and it had not gone unnoticed.  I arrived home this evening as the Alderman-Elect for my Ward for the remainder of the term, ending in April of 2015.

I have always had the stance that “everything happens for a reason” and that if something is meant to be, it will happen IF not, then move on and so be it.  I couldn’t help but wonder what cog I was becoming in some grand design and to what ends.  Thanks to the Alpha Brain, my mind refuses to shut off.  Couple that with the recent books I have been reading, thanks to Bro.’s Johnson & Lewis and I am left searching for the conspiracy or hidden narrative for my life, being scripted by some ancient Priory of all knowing elders.  What has led me to this particular path and this certain seat in local government?  Certainly there is a question of what even makes me worthy of such a position.

Rewind to that excitedly nervous feeling in the outer room of the Libertyville Masonic Lodge as I prepared for my degrees that would initiate me into the Brotherhood of Lake’s Chapter Order of DeMolay.  That Degree Work was the most interesting and unimaginable thing that I had ever seen.  And it was all done by teenagers.  From memory!  I do not recall ANY prompts from the advisors during this ceremony.  The presence of these guys that were my age or a little older still resonates in my mind.  It was certainly the beginning of a time in my life that I will never forget.  I can still recite my parts of the ritual (maybe with a prompt or two, or maybe just to see of the “Dad’s” are paying attention...).  Those tenants still hold true to how I try and live my life to this day: Filial Love, Reverence for Sacred Things, Courtesy, Comradeship, Fidelity, Cleanliness & Patriotism.  I certainly owe my organizational skills, ability to memorize, speak publicly, maintain my appearance & image, understand business & parliamentary procedures, delegate tasks and time management to what I learned so many year ago in DeMolay.  These ideals and skills were reenforced in me in 1998, when I was initiated, passed and raised to the level of Master Mason and became a life member of A.O. Fay Lodge, #676 in Highland Park, IL.  The Lodge where my father twice served as Worshipful Master.

Certainly between my family and Masonic influences, one can draw a straight line to my career in public service.  But even that has tangents and is anything but a straight line.  As I prepared for the Council meeting, I figured there may be the opportunity for a Q&A with the Council or at the very least a few minutes to toot my own horn.  I took some time to read over my letter that I had submitted to the Mayor for consideration to the Alderman seat.  This was a single spaced FULL page bio on what I felt qualified me for the position.  This was a particularly difficult letter to write simply because I don’t normally look to toot my own horn.  My actions and reputation have always paved the road for me.  Maybe not always a nice smooth road, sometimes a completely vertical, no hand hold terrain, but I never shied away from it.  Good or bad.

Even reading this letter now, it is hard to believe that it describes me and yet there is so much left out of who I am and what steers my decision making.

After that I attached my “resume”...  Another 3 pages...  I know the rules of resume writing, God knows I have applied for enough jobs in my lifetime.  But every time I try and cut something out, it feels like I am removing a part of myself.  Parts of what gave me my experiences and made me into the person I am today.

I was Master Councilor of Lakes Chapter, Order of DeMolay in 1995, the same year I graduated high school.  By fall of 1998 I was married and had built a brand new townhouse.  I was working full time, putting myself thru EMT school and working part time at the fire department.  By the end of 1999 I was a Field Training Officer for a large private ambulance service.  In mid 2002 I had finished paramedic class and was hired as a full time firefighter by the City of North Chicago and had the pleasure of serving with some outstanding firefighters.  They truly did more with less, I learned more about myself and my career during this time than can be explained.  By the end of that year I was offered a job with my home department and made the decision to go home after an experience that can only be earned in the trenches of what seemed like all out combat.  In 2003 I started my own consulting firm and flourished with work.  I traveled and worked with more types of people & business than I can verbalize and I never paid one cent for advertising.  The 2004-2005 school year landed me in a part time teaching position at the local high school technology campus.  This was a challenge, but one that bore more fruit than I ever thought possible.  After that school year ended, I procured a part time firefighting position with the Wauconda Fire District.  This was without a doubt, the most outgoing and courageous group of men & women I have ever had the pleasure of serving with.  One Lieutenant and a Chief quickly became mentors to me and people that I will look to emulate, should I find myself in a leadership position in the future.  In 2007, for family reasons, I decided to close my business and concentrate on the fire service and specialized response teams with the County & State.  In mid 2009 I was sought out by an old paramedic friend and partner from the “private” days to come back and run a new contract at a stand alone ER in town.  All the while continuing to amass numerous certificates and training milestones, mostly of the self education type.

If you can follow that jumbled time line, you would see that I not only held more than one job a any given time, but put myself through some very difficult classes to better my career and my ability to help others.  Toss in finding the time to have two kids and I don’t understand how it was all possible in such a short time.  However, I never complained about the hours, days and in one instance a full week away from my family.  My schedule allowed my wife to stay at home and raise our children.  The remaining two pages of my resume are lists of every certificate and professional association I have been a part of.

Suddenly and without warning, all of this came to a screeching halt.

Like I said, the family went through some difficult changes as reflected in the three year hole in my resume.  I suffered a career ending injury in the line of duty in the beginning of December 2009.  This was the height of my professional career and the involvement with Special Teams.  The point I had worked my enter professional career to obtain.  I managed to work a few more weeks before finally coming to the realization that I was more of a detriment to the shift and I seriously needed to get checked out before I was the reason someone got hurt or worse.

Two years of physical therapy, two shoulder surgeries and some serious days of depression later, I was pensioned out.  The days of selflessly helping others had ended.  Supporting a family on a fraction of what I used to bring home.  It was obvious that things were not tenable in their current state.  The wife & I began searching high and low for a place to move to and raise our family.  Luckily we did our due diligence and took our time.  We spent days in other states looking at areas and property.  Countless hours on the internet researching everything about several states in the Union.  When we thought we would have to move out of our house and rent for a while until we found a place, a house hit the listings on a friday afternoon.  We went to see it the saturday and did everything but put cash on the table right then and there.

By mid July 2012, we were moved in, loving our little town and the rest is (recent) history.  Looking back, I would not change one single thing about my professional career.  I was fortunate to have been in the position and be able to help so many people in so many extraordinary situations that not many people could handle.  I was, and still am proud to bear those burdens.  But I also would not change anything about my injury and the last three years.  I have been able to spend almost every day with my kids, and I missed a ton of them growing up while I was working and doing for others.  I certainly have been re-centered on what matters.

Now, later today (it is after 3:30AM now...) I have to meet with the City Clerk to be sworn in, sign the bond paperwork & get my key to the city (no really, there is only one room I can not access!).  I get to go to the elementary school and have lunch with my daughter.  Then I get to head to a previously scheduled meeting with the Chief of Police to discuss what I can do to take some of the Emergency Management work load off of his list of to do’s.

What has led us here, I have no idea.  How my career experience has led me onto two City committees and now an Alderman seat, I do not understand.  If there is some vast, elder society pulling strings that placed this particular house, in this particular Ward, at our feet at the exact time we needed it and somehow orchestrated my elevation thru the City politics to where I am now, then I say KEEP PULLING THOSE STRINGS, BROTHERS!!!  I will refuse the tinfoil hat... for now...

I have seen first hand on numerous occasions, both as the beneficiary as well as the guarantor, the benefits of this Brotherhood we call Freemasonry.  They are often unspoken & quietly understood and there is certainly not much more valuable or rewarding in my mind.  I can assure you all, as I sit here and breath, none of this journey has been planned by me, but I am grateful to be the one along for the ride, as uncharted and fantastic as it may be.

So if I am part of some mysterious plot to overtake the government, I say “good show chaps!  We’ve taken another step towards domination!”  Seeing as I have until April of 2015 to worry about importing my “Chicago Crew”, opening a campaign headquarters, amassing a war chest... I mean, campaign funds... and taking it to any would be challengers, I will practice the government mantra:

“Hi, I am from the government and I am here to help you.”

Thank You & Good Night... errr... Morning.


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a husband and father of two. Bro. Brian is also the lead contributor to the Brothers In Armsblog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"

A Lesson In Pride

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert Johnson 32°

As Freemasonry is understood, it is "...to make good men better". And so, it is. As a Freemason I struggle, like anyone else with the vices and superfluities of life. I like to think that I leave my ego at the door. I feel as if I treat others the way I would like to be treated. In short, I feel like I practice Freemasonry's tenants as best I can. 

Recently I think I may have forgot about one attribute which snuck up on me and sat me down rather quickly. My wife had been telling me for weeks that her car horn was weak. I knew this, I heard it every time I set the alarm. The last time we brought the car in for service, the technician said "You should think about a new battery soon, this one is getting pretty weak." So long story short, just before my wife has to leave for work, she phones me and says "My car is officially dead." 

Right of the bat, I had forgot about the battery. Luckily she works for a police department and an officer came and picked her up and brought her to the station. But this however was not my transgression. My mistake was pride. The next morning, I woke up early to pick up my wife, she works midnights. On an otherwise cold October morning we were in my Jeep, heat cranked up to 11 and the dog pawing at us from the back seat and I laid down the plans for a simple battery replacement. 

I got my wife home and she went to bed. I went up to the local automotive service center walked confidently up to the battery display, browsed with what must have looked like confusion for a good 10 minutes. I even looked up the type of battery I needed on my smart phone. Now if you think I am some idiot, well I am but not for this reason. I change my oil and do most of the routine maintenance on our vehicles. But this one day, I must have been asked by two or three technicians if I needed help. Each time I said "No thanks.". 

Big mistake. I picked out a battery and went to check out. I felt good. The plan was to travel a whole 6 blocks back home toss in a new battery and I would be on with my day. No sooner did I pull the old battery out, did I get a visit from "Mr. Murphy". So I connected the positive terminal then tightened it. I was half way done. I started to slip on the other terminal connector and the horn from the car started to go off. I honestly couldn't tell you what I was thinking when this was happening because the second I thought about it, I had already made the mistake. 

Not quite this bad. *not my actual car*
It was at that instant, the engine compartment caught fire. I instantly had two options running through my head, one, grab the dead-blow mallet and knock of the negative terminal to stop the reaction and two grab the fire extinguisher. I did just that, in 3 seconds I disconnected the terminal and just as soon did the flames go out except a little fairy of flame dancing on a wire harness in front of the fan. I blew it out like a birthday candle. 

I sat down, I pondered what just happened. As it happens people ask if you need help because that is their job. I turned it down out of pride. In my mind, I was the grandson of an accomplished Naval Electrical Engineer who taught me how to build a Tesla Coil  out of garbage when I was nine years old. That being said, I wasn't thinking. I had in fact bought a battery with reversed terminal pegs than what our car had. I had in effect hooked the positive cable from the car to the negative terminal on the battery and vise versa. 

The weakest point was spawned and a fire ensued. I took the battery back, and the technicians helped me get the right battery. The car was immoveable even after installing the new battery because the ignition is completely electronic. That means I couldn't even put it in neutral. I had to have the car towed to the local dealer and repaired. In all this, a lesson in pride cost me a pretty penny. I guess life has a way of teaching you certain lessons whether you want to learn them or not. Up to this point, I thought I was a pretty "Masonic" kinda' guy. Always questioning my motives and reasons for everything I did, ensuring these pursuits were laudable, righteous and had the best intentions for those around me. 

Ego, check. Greed, check. Pride.....eh I think I get it now. Never be so proud you turn away help. Take the help, listen to suggestions and be grateful for all of it. 


Bro. Robert Johnson, 32° is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, Knights Templar, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.