As I write this the date is July 13th. Yesterday, three years ago on July 12th, 2018, Masonry lost a great scholar, and I lost a great friend.
For many years I have been a fan of the writing of Brother James Tresner. Jim while being a very brilliant man and great academic scholar, Jim never lost his humility. Despite all the accolades and honors bestowed upon him during his lifetime Jim remained on the level. He stayed the humble boy from Oklahoma. I must admire that.
Needless to say, Jim was and is one of my all-time favorite Masonic writers. He had a way of explaining Masonry in a way a lunkhead like me could understand. He is like Chris Hodapp in that way. In order for me to learn I need hand puppets and coloring books so I might grasp the meaning printed on the page. These men have the ability to reach me and help me actually learn. I will always be grateful for that.
I also like the way Jim would write a piece and many times when he was trying to get his point across he would use irony and sarcasm. If you know me in real life that is pretty much how I have lived my life, much to the regret of friends and relatives around me. Needless to say, Jim influenced my writing style.
I never actually met Brother Tresner in person. I would see him at the Guthrie valley of the Scottish Rite and I wanted to go up and shake his hand, maybe even have my photo taken with him. But for some silly reason, I was so star-struck I could never make myself do it. I know it was silly and I regret it now because now I will never have the opportunity.
My closest friend in Oklahoma, Lance Kats, knew of my fanboy obsession with Tresner. He used to kid me about it. He used to ask me if I still Had Jim’s poster on my bedroom wall like a lovesick teenage girl. We would exchange good-natured insults and laugh.
One day I was talking to Lance, and he told me about some Brethren from the Scottish Rite in Guthrie thought he and Jim would have a lot in common, both had a love of books and Masonry and many other things and set up a “play date” for the two. Needless to say, I was jealous and demanded to know every detail. I had no way of knowing it but I had a feeling at the time the Brethren seen something in Lance. I think something he never saw in himself.
I thought in the back of my mind the Brethren knew Tresner was having health problems and I think they hope the two would become close and Jim would be a mentor for Lance, and maybe just maybe he could help with the education at Guthrie once Jim laid down his working tools. Lance was brilliant. I know in my heart he would have excelled at the job. I dare not say he would have made a great replacement for Brother Jim. The closest I believe to that would be Most Worshipful Brother Bob Davis. But I think Lance would have been amazing. (This is just speculation on my part. I could have been completely wrong)
The night of their play date Lance went up to Guthrie, Oklahoma where Jim lived. The two had dinner at the Stables restaurant (If you are ever in Guthrie you got to go there. I suggest the steak). I guess they made small talk at dinner and once they finished they went to Jim’s house.
Lance said it was a nice house. There were books stacked everywhere. Little was said between the two he said. I guess the Brethren at the Rite never really thought about the fact that when you put two introverts together in the same space they really will not say much to each other. Both spent some time watching Jim’s cat play, saying something occasionally, and after a while, Lance said goodnight and went home. I was surprised because I would have thought two Brothers who had so much in common would have a lot to talk about. Maybe the fact that they had so much in common meant they did not need to say much to each other, both understood what was being said without words.
Not long afterward Masons in Oklahoma was saying Jim’s health was declining. So it wasn’t too surprising that day three years ago when I got an email with the news of Jim’s passing. I got that sadness in the pit of my stomach everyone knows when they learn about the death of someone they care about. I sent a text to Lance telling him a link to the announcement. I assumed he was still asleep since it was his day off.
Later that afternoon I got a call from the Senior Warden in Lance’s lodge in El Reno, Oklahoma. He asked if I was sitting down. I was sitting at my desk, so I assured him I was. I figured it was about Tresner. He quietly said, “Bill, Lance is Dead.”
I do not think my mind really grasp it. I mean he was 39 years old. After a little while, over the next couple of days, I finally began to accept it. I began to help El Reno #50 with the announcements and the Masonic service. I was honored to be one asked to speak at his service.
I truly believe that day was a great loss for Oklahoma Freemasonry and Freemasonry in general. Jim was a brilliant writer and I believe he will inspire Masons like me for decades to come. His words will stand the t4est of time. I also believe in my heart that Oklahoma Masonry had lost a future star of Masonic education with Lance’s passing.
Lance, I think would have been a brilliant asset to the future writing of Freemasonry. He was brilliant and just beginning his Masonic career. Because of the Christian fundamentalist college, he attended he could not put his writings in his own name. If he had he would have been expelled so he wrote under the Nom de plum “Brother Tech”. He posted a few things on his own Facebook page under that name which I now administer, and he posted the first chapter of a book he was going to publish in serial form on amazon entitled “A Christian's Perspective on Masonic Symbols: The Square and Compasses” It’s funny. I just went to Amazon to look up the proper name of his book and I couldn't believe all the four and five-star ratings it has received and comments saying “I can’t wait for the next installment”. It is sad they will never come.)
I’ve often thought about how weird it was that both of these men passed on the same day. Several of us have joked how they were both probably riding the escalator to Heaven discussing the pros and cons of cigars versus pipes. Or maybe they both were just riding in silence anticipating the chat they were about to have with another Masonic Brother whose last name was Pike.
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this, he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.