An Outstretched Hand

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

Before submitting my petition, I had no personal connection to Freemasonry. No one in my family was a member. I also didn’t have a friend at work or in my neighborhood who was a member of the Fraternity. I found the Grand Lodge of New Jersey’s website and filled out the contact form, saying that I was interested in joining. Then they put me in contact with a local Lodge.

The Secretary of the Lodge said that I should show up at the building on a certain date and time to pick up a petition. So, that particular day I left work and went straight over to the Lodge at the specified time. I was nervous as I pulled up to the building and saw quite a few cars in the parking lot. I walked into the building wearing business casual clothes, and was surprised when I walked into a room packed with men wearing tuxedos. I knew the name of the Secretary but didn’t know how to pick him out of the crowd. I walked up to someone in the room to inquire about the Secretary, and they said that he was upstairs but should be down soon.

Since I am an introvert, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I was out of place and stuck out amongst the crowd. I was the only person not dressed in formal wear and didn’t know a single person in the room. Part of me wanted to turn around and head home. At that moment, a voice rose from the crowd saying, “I don’t think I’ve met this person before.” I looked up and an older gentleman was approaching me with his hand extended to shake my hand. While he wasn’t the Secretary, he was the first Mason to welcome me. That was my initial interaction with RW Brother Al Hann.

RW Hann was sadly called from Labor recently after many years of working in the Quarries of Freemasonry. He was a treasured member of the 18th Masonic District in New Jersey and throughout our Jurisdiction. He served as Worshipful Master of Laurel Lodge No. 237 in Laurel Springs, NJ in 1966. Eventually, he served as a Junior Grand Deacon. RW Hann was the Installing Marshall for the Lodges in our District for many, many, many years. As a result, he was an honorary member of my Lodge, and I am sure other Lodges also bestowed that honor on him.

Several years ago (when he was in his 90s), RW Hann “retired” from being the District’s resident Installing Marshall. However, when the spirit moved him, he would still sometimes help out with the installation of a Marshall. In fact, during USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62’s most recent installation (when I was installed as Worshipful Master), RW Hann stood up and helped to install our Lodge’s Marshall. He did so with skill and precision. That was the last time I saw him perform that role.

I was inspired to write this piece after attending a meeting at his Mother Lodge last night. The Brothers of Laurel Lodge had his usual chair saved for him - a very touching tribute. His memory will live on with many members of the Fraternity. I know that I will always recall that he was the first Mason to welcome me as I took the initial steps of my Masonic journey.


Jim Stapleton is the Worshipful Master of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

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