Masonic Lodge members recognized for 50 years of service
Ancient fraternity still guides men on how to live their lives
With all the organizations one can join and all the conflicting challenges of scheduling and responsibilities, 50 years of service to any one of them is nothing short of miraculous.
Three individuals -- James "Spiz" Stephens, Richard Auernheimer and Bill Goosetree -- were recently recognized for contributing that many years of service to the Freemasons.
"The Grand Lodge goes out of its way to recognize the 50-year pin," said Right Worshipful Brother Benji Oakley, district deputy grand master of the 44th Masonic District of Missouri. "It's recorded in their database and their years of service."
Known as the world's largest and oldest fraternal organization, Masons are referred to as a brotherhood of man joined in a common effort to become better people in order to make the world a better place. The 600-year-old fraternity, which has over six million members world-wide and originated among medieval stone masons in England, promotes virtues of honesty, brotherly love and truth.
President Harry Truman was a Mason and one of the few members to reach the goal of the 33rd degree.
"Freemasonry is the oldest fraternity on the planet," Oakley said. "Freemasonry makes good men better. It is referred to as the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. Masons relied on [secret] handshakes and passwords to be able to prove they were a mason, thereby telling them if they were in the presence of friend or foe."
Masons use metaphors and symbols to teach moral truths.
"We use the tools of masonry to square and level our lives," Oaklely said. "We use the tools of operative masonry as philosophical objects in how to live our lives. For instance, the plumb teaches us to walk uprightly before God and man."
Masons contribute nearly three million dollars every day to charitable causes, such as the founding of Shriners Hospitals for children. They also help with the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, The Masonic Child Identification program and provide nearly $500,000 in annual scholarships.
Locally, members have helped support Camp Barnabas, children's hospitals, backpack food programs, scholarships and sponsor fundraisers for charitable causes. The group also coordinates Mo Chip events, which provides identification tools for children in the event they are lost.
The Cassville lodge has an original charter date of Oct. 16, 1872. Stephens, senior warden and past master, said he was thrilled to receive his 50-year pin. On Oct. 21, 1965, Stephens petitioned the Cassville lodge to join. He was elected to join on Nov. 18, and became an Entered Apprentice on Dec. 2.
One of his favorite events has been an annual fundraiser to raffle a rifle.
"That makes us a little money and it's fun to visit and sell the tickets," he said. "Part of the money is used for someone who needs help."
Over the years, Stephens advanced through all three degree programs, Entered Apprenticeship, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, which require comprehensive memorization. Stephens served as Worshipful Master from 1968 to 1969 after serving as Junior and Senior Warden, the top two offices in the Masonic Lodge.
"Spiz has held those positions multiple times to help out his lodge," Oakley said.
"Fifty years is a long time to be in any organization," Stephens said. "I sat in the Master's chair and what was fun about it to me was attending the special events. There's a lot of memory work and rituals. The Worshipful Master is in charge of overseeing the degree work. I enjoyed the meetings and fellowship.
"It teaches you to be upright in the community and trustworthy. One thing is, you remind your fellow Mason of his failings in the tenderest manner and aid his reformation. If everyone did just that, it'd be a great thing. Most people, if they knew anyone who was a Mason, would hold them in high regard. To me, it's an honor. I would recommend anyone to be a member of the Masonic Lodge."
Freemasons still try to live by their traditions.
"I absolutely believe these methods, as antique as they may be, are still relevant today," said Worshipful Master Ken Lingle. "They will continue to be relevant as long as honesty and honor are considered essential to being a positive, contributing member of our society."
Senior Deacon Richard Auernheimer received his 50-year pin in January, and has been part of the Cassville lodge for 30 years.
"It's a very fine men's fraternity, they have a lot of good people there," Auernheimer said. "It gives us guidance as men. As soon as I got more involved, I got more out of church. And I've met a lot of really good people across the U.S."
Auernheimer served as Worshipful Master in Belle Plaine, Kan. in 1972 and in Cassville in 1996 and 2003. One of his favorite memories is attending a Grand Lodge meeting in Oregon in 1991.
"My cousin was Grand Master there," he said. "That was a great event to me."
"He's helped a lot of people get their degrees," said wife Marie Auernheimer. "It involves a lot of memory work."
Cassville native Bill Goosetree, of Cheyenne, Wyo., has dual membership in Wyoming and Missouri. He received his 50-year pin in October 2015. He served in the Washburn and Cassville lodges in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"I served as Worshipful Master in Washburn in 1968-69," he said. "I think it makes you a better man. It's just a fantastic organization. They do a lot of good to the community. Your character is investigated before you're allowed in. There's lots of people walking the streets today that couldn't get in the door. You have to have good character and a clean record."
For more information on becoming a Mason, people may call Ken Lingle at 417-847-3216. Or, ask a Mason, who will put it this way: "To be one, ask one."