Why I Became A MasonWhy I Became A Mason
Harrison E. "Gene" Thompson

Snow seemed to fall endlessly from the sky during the winter of 1943. The most recent storm was no exception, dumping 13 inches of fresh, white powder on our home in Bremerton, Washington.

I had just finished the swing shift at the Bremerton shipyards and headed home to my wife and son. My father, who lived nearby, met me at my front door, informing me that my wife, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant and sick with a cold, had taken a turn for the worse. She needed a doctor. We didn't have a phone, so I turned around and tromped through the snow to the nearest pay booth. I called her doctor and headed back to the house with his advice to give her an aspirin and call him in the morning. My mother, who was tending to my wife, would hear nothing of it. She said my wife was very sick and would not last until morning.

My father told me of an army base about two miles away and suggested I try finding help there. Knowing my wife's situation was desperate, I anxiously headed up the hill and walked for what seemed like an eternity. I knew it was time to stop as I felt a hard rifle barrel in my chest.

The guard told me to halt, and I didn't argue. After telling him and another guard of my wife's need for a doctor, they told me to wait while they made some phone calls. Soon they returned with a very welcome cup of hot coffee and the good news that a doctor was on his way from the other side of Bremerton. About 45 minutes later, a big army truck barreled in, breaking trail for the jeep which carried the doctor. I jumped in the truck and lead the way to my house.

Dr. King entered our house, looked around, and ordered a lot of hot water. He checked my wife and found she had double pneumonia. I'll never forget the moment he told me we could lose both her and the baby. Immediately, he sent his men back to the army post for supplies. He made a tent over my wife, filled it with steam, and stayed at her bedside all night. As he sat watching over my wife, I noticed a Masonic ring on his finger. Set in the ring was the most beautiful blue stone I had ever laid eyes on. I remarked how incredible the ring was, and he proudly told me that it was a gift from his wife.

I knew it was time to stop as I felt a hard rifle barrel in my chest.

I remembered that my father had been a Mason, but I really never knew the true meaning of Freemasonry. I told the doctor that my father had been a Mason until he moved from Indiana and was unable to pay his dues. He informed me that my dad may be an inactive member, but once he became a Mason, he would always be a Mason.

Dr. King stayed the whole next day and into the evening. He doctored my wife with great compassion. When my wife's fever subsided and he was sure she was out of danger, he decided to leave. As he prepared to go, I asked what I owed him. He said he would not, and could not, take money from me, even if he wanted to, since he worked for the Army. He said I owed him nothing. Then as he stepped outside the door, he suddenly turned back. He said, "Your admiration of my ring made me think of something. Yes, you do owe me. Someday, somewhere, you will encounter someone who desperately needs your help. He may not need a doctor. He may be hungry or cold or in need of a kind, helping hand. Whatever his problem may be, you will help him. Only then will your debt to me be paid."

At that moment, I began to realize what being a Mason was really about. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of that. Over the past 50 years, I have worked in DeMolay, Job's Daughters, Eastern Star, and other Masonic entities. I still think of this doctor, this Mason. I am grateful to him for saving my wife and my baby daughter. I am grateful to him for giving me the desire to become a Mason. And I still wonder if my debt to him has been paid.