H. Clements, 32, K.C.C.H.
While the Fraternity today must be about change, it must also remain steeped in its rich history and traditions such as the Masonic memorial service.
On Wednesday, January 29th, 1997, at eleven o’clock in the morning, a group of twelve Masons gathered at the Garden Sanctuary Cemetery in Largo, Florida. They were the members of the Funeral Team of Star Lodge, No. 78, Largo, Florida. They had assembled at my request to perform a Masonic Memorial Service for my wife’s father, Brother Darwin Henry Crall, 32, who had died on July 18th, 1995. At that time, circumstances and time constraints precluded a Masonic service. It was Gloria’s wish that her dad be paid the final respects of the Fraternity that he loved and served so well. It was also a sense of closure to her, a completion of her own responsibility to her dad and his memory.
Brother Darwin enjoyed Masonry and took its tenets to heart. He was made a Mason in 1942, joining Acanthus Lodge, No. 558, in Detroit, Michigan. He soon entered the line and in 1952 was elected to serve as Worshipful Master. Among his Masonic distinctions were both Life and Fifty-Year Memberships in his Blue Lodge, Life memberships in the Chapter and Council, R.A.M., and membership in Detroit Commandery. After retiring and moving with his wife Edith to Florida, Darwin became a Master of the Royal Secret in the Valley of Tampa and a Noble of Egypt Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S.
When Darwin first moved to Florida, he became a member of a Master Masons Club in the area in which he lived. The Club was made up of Masons who had retired, moved to warmer climes, and wanted to retain the fellowship of Brother Masons. These Brethren would meet a couple of mornings a month. Often, several of the members would visit local Masonic Lodges on their meeting nights. Star Lodge was one that became very close to Darwin’s heart, and he would often speak warmly of the Lodge to Gloria and me. It was a Brother he met at Star Lodge who secured his petitions to the Scottish Rite and the Shrine.
While living in Detroit, Darwin served as a member of the Wayne County Masonic Board of Relief, an organization set up on a regional basis to perform burial and memorial services for Masons who had been called to their celestial home while living, working, or visiting in the Detroit area. Gloria recalls sharing car rides with her dad while they were on their way to work in the mornings. They spent many hours together in the car, she with the Book of Public Ceremonies in her lap while her dad memorized the Worshipful Master’s part in the Masonic Burial Service.
Bro. Darwin H. Crall, 32, with his daughter, Gloria Clements, wife of this article’s author, Hugh H. Clements, 32, K.C.C.H.
When he died, Darwin was ten weeks short of his ninetieth birthday. Less than two weeks before his death, Gloria and I had driven him to Atlanta and seen him aboard a plane for home. In the three weeks prior to that parting, he had been visiting with us in Tennessee. As always when he and I were together, we spent many hours talking about the Craft. In spite of his years, Darwin remained avidly interested in the Fraternity and its future.
And so, on January 29th, when the men who made up the Star Lodge Funeral Team walked into the small chapel at Garden Sanctuary Cemetery, they weren’t strangers, they were Brothers. I’m sure most of them didn’t know Darwin personally, but they were there, for him and for Gloria, and for all the other widows and orphans and bereaved Brothers who needed to hear the words of comfort and fraternity contained in that bittersweet ceremony.
I learned later that the Star Lodge Funeral Team is called on some fifty times a year to perform the final farewell to Brother Freemasons for their families. They perform that duty with compassion, dignity and, above all, honor to the Masonic Fraternity.
As I began to think about the circumstances that brought Gloria and me to this time and place, I began to marvel at the Fraternity that made it possible. Here was a deceased Brother from a Lodge in Detroit, whose daughter has lived for fourteen years in Tennessee, and a group of Masons from a Lodge in Florida-all coming together for a common purpose. The ceremony had been arranged by a simple telephone call and a letter. There was no hesitation among those who requested the service or those who conducted it. It was simply done. Is there another organization anywhere that you can name so inclined and so equipped to meet this specific need?
Another thought came to me as I watched those good Brothers from Star Lodge assemble. There were twelve caring and devoted Brothers dressed in business suits, their black-bordered aprons and white gloves giving an air of solemnity to their purpose. Most of those Brothers were close to my own age, middle sixties, some perhaps a bit older. I pray that there are other, younger Freemasons coming along behind us who will continue this moving Masonic tradition. There is no more fitting close to a lifetime in Freemasonry than a memorial service conducted by those with whom you have met upon the Level and departed on the Square.
Masonry is faced with many difficult considerations today in attracting and retaining members. While it is necessary that the Fraternity today must be about change, it must also remain steeped in its rich history and tradition.
There are many things we do in life that are often without joy. Committing a loved one to his final place of rest clearly is one of those things. When that loved one is a Freemason, the sting of death is lessened greatly by the words and actions of Brother Freemasons who give of themselves in the final celebration of Masonry’s greatest strength, the eternal bond of Brotherly Love.
After the service, Gloria and I paused before the niche that contains the ashes of her mother and father. As we stood in the warm morning sunshine paying our respects to this man who meant so much to both of us, I asked Gloria what she was thinking. “I think my daddy is smiling,” she said. I know that he is.