A Promise Kept

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

*Editors Note: This post was Originally supposed to be run on May 2nd*

How do you judge the character of a person?  Be it a with someone you have a proposed  business transaction with, someone you happened to sit next to at a bar and struck up a conversation, a coworker or neighbor…

There are multiple ways and things that all weigh somewhat on that decision making process.  Much of it has to do with your perception of their actions, mannerisms and how you see them interact with others.  My Pops used to take potential business partners out to the Country Club and play a round of golf with them.  He would let them keep score and by the end of the day they checked the score card over a cocktail.  If he kept an honest card, he was in.  If Pop’s caught him cheating on the score, he would tell him sorry, it just isn’t going to work out, pay for the drinks and walk out.  No explanation, nothing.  Just, done.  If you can’t trust a person at their word, what could you trust them with?

I came across this story on a FaceBook page for Lebanon Lodge #837 AF & AM that some good Brothers I happen to know frequent.  I want to share this with the world, as a beaming example of what Freemasonry is.  What it is about.  Why the Men of the Craft are so dedicated to it. 

May 2nd, 2015 Lebanon lodge will once again fulfill it’s promise to a grieving mother who lost her young child so long ago.

Over 100 years ago, settlers still headed west in covered wagons as the “Old West” wound down its wild heydey. In 1908, the family of Walter M. Hagood, Jr. made a stop on Preston Ridge near the current Bethel Cemetery just north of Eldorado Parkway on its journey to more prosperous times in California. Little Walter was born on October 21, 1908 and died only four days later.

Frisco resident Nancy Higginbotham told the distraught mother, who feared leaving her deceased newborn behind, that she would tend to the grave so the mother wouldn’t have to worry that the infant would be forgotten.

True to her word, she tended the grave and placed flowers at the grave marker every year on Decoration Day, until her death in 1930. Her daughter, Minnie Fisher stepped in and continued the Promise until her death in 1964. Minnie’s daughter-in-law Wilma Fisher, a beloved Frisco school teacher, then accepted the role. Wilma continued the duty until her health began to fail in 2006.

That’s when members of this Lodge told Wilma that since she and her late husband Donald had served the Masons so well in their lives, that the Masons would assume the honor of decorating the grave. Miss Wilma died in 2008 and Lebanon Lodge #837 continues over 100 years later to keep that Promise that Nancy Higginbotham gave to that distraught mother on that fateful Autumn day.

In fact, the Lodge has written the Promise into its charter, ensuring that the grave will be decorated every year in perpetuity. Please join us on Decoration Day to honor Walter M. Hagood, Jr., as well as those who served “the Promise.”

I suppose that there is really no reason to continue with these actions.  Anyone associated with this child is long passed on from this existence.  The original promise had nothing to even do with the Masons, Freemasonry or the Craft in any way.  If they stopped and allowed time to go on without this burden, nobody would really know.  Nobody on the outside anyway…  To the outside world, Lebanon Lodge would be just another building that every once in a while shells out spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts.  To those that fill the chairs every month though, they would know.  They would know that their Lodge, not one Brother, or two.  But the Lodge in its entirety, gave their word to continue a promise that is now 107 years old.  If you doubt my perception of the situation, just reread that last paragraph I quoted, the Promise is written into their Charter.  Why?  Why go to such lengths for nobody important?

Let me tell you why.  A promise was made that comforted a Lady that had just lost her child.  One of the worst things a mother go through, during one of the most difficult times mind you,   in the history of this country.  That promise was felt by others as sincere and noble and the burden taken upon themselves, over and over again until the burden was assumed by someone from the Craft.  The word of a Mason is not something that should be received lightly.  We give our word as a token of our character to those that are worthy, be they Brethren, Ladies, Relatives...anyone.  What better example of keeping your word than to keep the word of your Brother and enshrine that promise in the very paper that your Lodge is built upon?

We often hear people say, “Be The Example”.  If anyone had any questions about what that means, show them this article about the lengths a Mason goes to keep his word and that of his Brother.

What a different world this would be if people had even a fraction of the Love for a stranger that Nancy Higginbotham showed that tragic day.  Truly saints, all that have taken and carried this Promise to this day, 107 years later.


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. Most recently, Brian became a Companion of the York Rite, joining Waukegan Chapter #41 R.A.M. Brian is a father of two children. You can follow his blog "It is. In God. I do." where he publishes even more excellent content. "Start Square, Finish Level"

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