Brother Tim Horton - A life of success and tragedy…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

If a Canadian Brother ever takes you out for a cup of coffee and a doughnut, odds are he won't take you to a Starbucks, a Dunkin', a Krispy Kreme, or anywhere other than a Tim Hortons. 

Founded in 1964, the Tim Hortons chain, has become a popular and iconic Canadian establishment which has expanded worldwide with nearly 5,000 restaurants in Canada, the US, the UK, Mexico, and other countries. It even has over 20 restaurants in Communist China.

In our neighbor to the north, Tim Horton is a household name, but who was he? There are at least two things many people, especially youth who only know "Timmies," as a hip place to gather, do not know about Tim Horton. First, he was one of the greatest hockey players ever. Second, he was a Freemason, raised in Kroy Lodge 676 in Toronto.

Born in Cochrane, Ontario on January 12, 1930, Brother Miles Gilbert "Tim" Horton played in various levels of youth hockey as he steadily grew into a mountain of a man.  A young standout, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1949, where he played for most of his 22 years. At the time there were only six teams in the National Hockey League. It was more popular in Canada, and there were no big million dollar salaries. His first contract paid $9,000 per season – not enough to make him rich, yet enough to provide for a comfortable living. Tim married Delores "Lori" Michalek, an Ice-Capades performer, in 1952.

Scouting reports on Horton claimed with his size and strength, he had the potential to become hockey's greatest defenseman. The reports were not wrong, as he skated his way into becoming a member of four Stanley Cup teams, an NHL all-star, and eventually a member of its Hall of Fame. In 2016, the Toronto Maple Leafs retired his #7 jersey and the following year he was named as one of the 100 greatest NHL players ever.

Horton's ability and strength became legendary in the NHL. Hockey great Bobby Orr has said Tim Horton may have been the league's strongest player ever. Tim's trademark during a fight was to wrap his arms around an opposing player in a crushing hug. Hockey writer Bob McKenzie remarked, "You didn't get out of that vice grip until Horton let you out." 

A player Horton once punched was asked in an interview what it was like to take such a hit from the hockey superman. "I'd rather he hit me," he said, "than get me in one of his bear hugs."

Horton's fairy-tale career and even his life nearly came to an end in 1955. In a game near the end of the season, Chicago defenseman Bill Gadsby slammed into him with a blow so hard it sent Tim to the ice where he sustained a concussion, broken jaw, and broken leg. Gadsby later said it was the hardest hit he ever gave anyone. Back then, a disabled hockey player did not get paid. Horton missed the remainder of the '55 season and half of the next year as well. In the interim, Constantine "Conn" Smythe, Maple Leafs owner, gave him a job as a truck driver. The job helped, but did not meet his family's financial needs. This gave Tim incentive to work hard to get back into the game.

In 1964, in order to supplement his hockey income, Tim opened the first of his coffee and doughnut shops in Hamilton Ontario. In 1967, he brought in Ron Joyce, an acquaintance who owned a local Dairy Queen, as a partner.  The chain, known simply as "Tim Hortons," was an immediate success and, together, Tim and Ron continued to expand the business.

For the next few years the restaurant chain and Tim's hockey career went well. Lori, alone at home, weary of Tim's absences and bored, developed problems with alcohol. At the end of the 1973 season, she asked Tim to retire. Tim had fallen into the trap of drinking to celebrate his victories and also to drown the sorrows of his losses. He had been traded to the Buffalo Sabres by then, and he agreed to end his career. However, George "Punch" Imlach, the Buffalo coach offered him $150,000 and a new Ford Pantera if he would play just one more year.

Brother Horton agreed. Near the end of the season, he was injured and taking prescribed painkillers so he could continue to play. After a late season game in Toronto, Tim had a few drinks with his teammates, then called Lori and said he was driving home. She could tell the combination of painkillers and alcohol had affected him and begged him to wait until the next day to drive. Tim insisted he was okay, and in the early morning hours of February 21, 1974, headed out in his new Pantera. In that car, his pride and joy, he only had two speeds: zero and greased lightning. Lori called the Ontario Provencal Police, and they set up roadblocks to stop him. He made it as far as St. Catherines, near the US border when he lost control of his car. It flipped several times and Tim was thrown from the vehicle and killed. He was 44.

After Tim's death, Lori said, "I went into a daze for about 15 years." She sold her shares in the restaurant and all rights to use Tim's name to Ron Joyce for one million dollars. Years later, after she stopped drinking, she realized the sale was a mistake and, in 1993, sued Joyce. She lost the lawsuit, which cost her most of her remaining savings. 

Tim's life was a cocktail of stellar success and tragedy. Today, his remaining children and grandchildren have no rights to the empire he built or his name; and to them it may be of little consolation that name is so well known in his country that it has become a part of the Canadian culture.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

Are You Duly and Truly Prepared?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Ira Gilbert, PM, PDGM

My Brothers, you became my brothers as soon as you took upon yourself the obligation of the Entered Apprentice degree. When you entered the door of your Lodge for the first time two questions were asked of you. The first was whether your entry into the Lodge was of your own free will and accord. The second was asked of the Junior Deacon, who was conducting you on your admission into the Lodge, was whether you were duly and truly prepared. These two questions are inter-related.

Was your entry into our fraternity of your own free will and accord? Did any one entice you into becoming a Freemason? When the Investigating Committee spoke to you and your significant other were you asked the reasons for your desire to become a Freemason? Were you offered a copy of “On The Threshold” a pamphlet that explains the journey that you are now undertaking or some other material given by your Grand Lodge?

As an extension of the query of your free will for entry into Freemasonry, you should have been informed that being a Freemason grants you entry into an elite fraternity of brothers. A Masonic Lodge is far more than being merely a social or charitable organization. The social and charitable activities of your lodge are important. You may be attracted to the social and charitable endeavors of the lodge. These are certainly laudable activities for every lodge to undertake. However, a Masonic lodge is also a place for moral and philosophical enlightenment.

As experienced Masons, we envy the path that lies ahead for you in our brotherhood of Freemasonry. After taking your obligation in the Entered Apprentice Degree, you heard an explanatory lecture on the symbolism and meaning of the ritual that you had just completed. In the ritual for each of the three degrees in Blue Lodge Masonry there are some ninety items that require symbolic explanation. The explanations presented to you in the degrees are only a start in understanding what Freemasonry really means.

Bro. Rollin C. Blackmer edited and produced a series of lectures about our fraternity. His book was entitled, “The Lodge and the Craft”. It was first published in the year 1923. In the first lecture Bro. Blacker remarked that in the year 1923 there were approximately 100,000 brethren in the State of Missouri. Of these 100,000 brethren only about 75 men had made a significant study of the symbolism, philosophy, and history of this Brotherhood to which they belonged.
He went on to state that it was a lamentable state of affairs that the majority of its members were ignorant of most everything connected with Freemasonry. There are many reasons for this regrettable state of affairs.

The first of these reasons lies in the fact that our fraternity is now approaching the 300th year of its existence. Much has transpired in the past 300 years. The fraternity cries out for its new brethren to take upon themselves a study of what the principles of our brotherhood really are and mean.

You have joined a group of men who are the elite of society. You should consider yourself a Masonic brother to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, thirteen signers of our United States Constitution, and nine signers of the Declaration of Independence. You are a brother to a myriad of other Freemasons, such as Gene Autry, Ernest Borgnine, W. C. Fields, Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, Davy Crocket, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, General Douglas MacArthur and General Leonard Wood. I can go on and on listing the brethren who you can now call your brothers. You are fortunate, indeed, for having been welcomed into this great fraternity.

Were you duly and truly prepared to enter the Lodge hall to take upon yourself the obligations of Freemasonry. This query can be considered on two levels.

First of all, you were asked to divest yourself of all metals and wear a suit suitable to your degree. You were hoodwinked (blindfolded) and a rope (cable-tow) was placed about you. The meaning of these preparation and symbols were explained to you. In this context you were undoubtedly duly and truly prepared to enter to lodge hall.

However, were you also duly and truly prepared in your mind and ready to start your journey in Freemasonry? In Freemasonry, it is true that your family and means of earning a living are predominant. And, I do not mean to imply that you are expected to become a Masonic scholar, while this would certainly be a laudable accomplishment. But, it is important that you understand what it really means to become a Mason. Are you duly and truly prepared to attend the meetings of your lodge, to the best of your ability? A Masonic Lodge is only as good as the brethren that are active in its affairs.

Are you duly and truly prepared to learn what it means to be a Mason and live according to Masonic precepts? Freemasonry is an organization dedicated to making good men better. You are already thought to be a good man or you would not have passed the test of the ballot box and been admitted to your Lodge. A study of Freemasonry will give you the tools to become a better man. Properly implemented, your family and society, in general, will applaud your dedication to Masonic principles.

So, my Brother, I welcome you into our fraternity. There are many in your Lodge who will aid your quest into the philosophy, symbolism, and history of our Order. You should find something that piques your interest in our Brotherhood. There are five basic areas of interest in studying Freemasonry. These are history, philosophy, symbolism, law, and ritual (its memorization and meaning). Find an area that is of interest to you and pursue it. There are dedicated brothers who will help you as you take upon yourself the journey to learn what it really means to be a Mason.

My Brothers, I will close this presentation with a saying by the noted Masonic author, H. L. Haywood. His words may indicate to you the basic premise of Freemasonry, “Not More Men In Masonry, But More Masonry In Men”.


Bro. Ira Gilbert was raised on January 8, 1968 in Isaac Cutter Lodge #1073 and was Master in 1972. Isaac Cutter Lodge merged with Chicago Lodge #437 and he is now now a member of Chicago Lodge. Bro Gilbert is a member of A. O. Fay Lodge #676 as well. He is also a member of the Valley of Chicago Scottish rite. Bro. Ira's dedication to Masonic Education has afforded him the ability to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education and the Grand Lodge Committee on Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira comes from a Masonic family, his father being Master of Universal Lodge #985, now a part of Decalogue Lodge through a series of mergers. His father was also a Grand Lecturer. His main interest in our fraternity lies in the philosophy and history of our ritual and in Masonic Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira was a DDGM twice, once in the 1980's and once four years ago. He is also a fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research and the ILOR awarded him the Andrew Torok Medal as well.

The Three Degrees of Chi Kung

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

In the West, we tend to boldly demark the concepts of body and mind from one another -- the physical from the psychical (mental and/or spiritual). The traditional Chinese perspective looks at the body (or one's being) being a composite, with the physical body as a component of one's self. It's not merely a shell, and certainly not sinful or oppositional by nature as in Western traditions.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong with a simple Body-Mind duality. The Square is about actions and is used to measure relationships in a three-dimensional existence; the Compasses are a drafting tool for discernment and willful boundaries.

But perhaps a more pertinent model for our various Degrees is the trinity of body, mind, and spirit. According to George Harold Steinmetz, in "The Royal Arch, its Hidden Meaning", as well as other Masonic authors in various works, the Degrees show a progression of growth through those parts of our being. It isn't hard to see how the Entered Apprentice Degree deals with the physical, the Fellowcraft with the mental, and Master Mason Degree with the Spiritual. We go from the quarries of measuring and manipulating the objects of the physical world, to the arts and sciences, to the transformation of our mortal, yet immortal existence.

It is no wonder the Square takes precedence in the configuration we first behold at the Altar, the Compasses at last, and a partial transcendence of the physical into the spiritual when we are Passed. The ritual describes our progression in our Moral Science as being -- by necessity -- by degrees.

So why bring up an Eastern model of human existence? Because there are aspects of the model that grant us other insights. Any framework of understanding can yield results unique to it, and Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of them, particularly in its Taoist roots.

The ancient Taoist physiology focuses on the "Triple Burner" system -- three energy fields in the body called dan tiens. These are NOT point-like chakras and are often poorly equated with them or other Indian concepts. And most martial arts don't even mention there are three of them, as only the lower one is used in martial training.

The lower dan tien, just below the navel, could be described as the home of jing, physical essence. I teach my students that it is the geographic center of the physical body, and if it were stiff, dead weight, that's where you could place a fulcrum to balance it like a see-saw. (Don't try this at home.)

The middle dan tien, around the diaphragm, is the home of chi, literally meaning breath. Of course, the concept of breath is hardly limited to moving oxygen but is an energetic, whole body (or even body-and-beyond) experience. (I've written on this subject before, but won't get into its metaphysical nature or theological implications here, as it would detract from the point of this article.)

The upper dan tien could be thought of as the "third eye", or seat of spirit. This completes a trinity of places to focus the physical (body), the non-physical (spiritual), and the bridge between them (chi).

So, where am I going with this? The ancient Taoist text, "Cultivating Stillness"*, expounds a regimen of chi kung (roughly meaning "breath training") for the purpose of immortality. Let's not argue over how literal or possible its goal is intended to be. The important thing is that this is a journey for the whole person. Every aspect of one's being affects the others. The progression described is an effort to use the jing to "purify" the chi, and then the chi to purify shen.

Like the deep lessons of our degrees, you can't jump ahead. It would devastate the impact of the Third Degree by not having experienced the first two. The power of the Royal Arch Degrees would be wasted if endowed upon the profane -- there's a reason you have to be a Master Mason to receive them (and be a Past Master, but let's not bog ourselves down here explaining that).

Each Degree builds on the former. The First sets the foundation for the Second, which in turn prepares you for the Third. We can't move on until we have purified the baser part of ourselves. We must use simple tools to circumscribe and divest our physical actions and passions to be ready to cultivate intellect. Then we must use our learning to cultivate our faith.

But do we have truly suitable proficiency before moving on? If we appreciate any of this, we must admit a Progressive Moral Science that can only be taught and experienced by Degrees. How could one-day classes even be considered acceptable? (Although some Brothers have succeeded in spite of them.)

We give little or no thought to why we do the Degrees in their order, They are simply dates on a Trestle Board, a train with three stops. Saying the journey is important isn't a cliche. The process is the work, and the work is the whole point.

But it's never too late. Each time we see the Degrees, we have a chance to revisit where we are and know better where we need to be. Just like an advanced practitioner of chi kung or martial arts can always deepen their practice through the simplest exercises, we can allow ourselves to be an Apprentice or Fellowcraft again. 

*First translated into English by Eva Wong, who incidentally is local to my area and a student of Master Moy of the Taoist Tai Chi Society. His art is the first of many styles of Tai Chi that I have studied over the years.


Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

Let there be light!

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I had the extreme pleasure of being able to give a presentation at the Grand York Rite sessions for the three York Rite Bodies in Illinois this past week.  Not only was I blessed with the opportunity to chair the Grand Royal Arch Chapters education committee for the coming year, but I was also installed as their Grand Orator.  Maybe it's because I have a big least that's what I've been telling people.  All kidding aside, it was a fantastic time.  I was extremely honored to meet Companion Timothy Hogan, who gave a very interesting presentation about the Esoteric Traditions of the Knights Templar, and made a more coherent and well-researched argument for Templar influence upon modern Ancient Craft Freemasonry than "Born in Blood".  I presented on the influence of the legend of Enoch's vault and how it influenced many high degrees in both the York and Scottish Rite, and how it progressed over time from being a story about Enoch's vault to becoming a vault that Solomon built under the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and how the story is being perpetuated in pop culture through movies like National Treasure and television shows like Oak Island. 

However, the highlight of the event was having a brother come up to me to tell me that in his many years in Freemasonry, this was the best thing he had seen.  What it shows me unequivocally is how important Masonic Education is and how much influence it can have.  It also shows me in reverse that many Craft Lodges and appendant bodies are not taking the opportunity to present education as part of their meetings.  To have many react as they did to my and Companion Hogan's presentations was proof in my mind that there is at the core of Freemasonry a thirst for knowledge, and that many men join Freemasonry expecting to learn something either about themselves or their place in the universe or the nature of the universe and they walk away empty-handed.  Now, is some of this on them? Sure, those that want to learn do learn... but then again I think that maybe sometimes those who have taken up the reigns of being Masonic Educators have a duty to try to spread light to those that haven't had the opportunity to receive it. 

So when a brother comes up to me and tells me that the educational presentations are the best thing he's ever seen in Freemasonry, well, you thank him for his kind words.  Personally, there's nothing better than that for me to know that something I presented touched another brother so deeply to have him come across the room after the presentations and tell me that.  It brings everything into perspective for me.  It gives me the fuel to keep forging forward with everything that I do for Masonic Education.  The accolades that matter are how you are remembered, not the titles, honorary memberships, degrees, etc.  My hope is that when I'm long from this world, maybe some brother that isn't even born yet will happen upon my writing and feel like I know what I'm talking about.  If I can be an influence like Mackey and Smith have influenced me, then there is in my mind no greater honor.  It also tells me that the work must continue.  


WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. You can reach him by email at