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Handshakes? (a story from John E. Rhodes, Jr.)

Thanks to Ill. Bro. John Rhodes for this story and reflection on a long-standing tradition that may be changing…

There it was, I did not anticipate it and as a matter of fact have been avoiding it, I walked up to my poolside friend friend, Pete, to talk about our upcoming tee time.  Without thinking, and instinctively, almost as a reflex, there it was right in front of me.  

Pete was a Mason, from the southern jurisdiction, now living in New Jersey.  He had noticed my Scottish Rite ring last year, and thus began a new friendship, and many masonic stories.  Pete was Greek and spoke with soft tones and with a Jersey accent, but he loved to play golf and like me was tired of the quarantine and isolation that comes with it. We were both anxious to get out, to get away for a few hours, and hit the links.
As I walked up to Pete, he smiled and out came his right hand. It was unanticipated, and yes, without thinking, and without disinfectant, I accepted his warm greeting.  We knew better, both of us.  We were wintering in Florida, when the virus struck our nation, until then, we had both been enjoying the sunshine, and saltwater, and poolside chats.  He like I, had been raised in a time, when attending a lodge function, or meeting a new friend, you shook hands.  My own father gave me lessons on the proper way to shake a man’s hand, we practiced on each other, it was a sign of manhood, of respect, it sealed the deal!    “A firm handshake is a sign of character!”,  he would say, and “You don’t try to crush someone’s hand, but don’t ever give him a wet fish either!”,  and the most impressive lesson, “You shake the hand of every Mason in your lodge room!” 
It made perfect sense in 1975, to get married in the middle of a quarter of undergrad study, and live in an $85 a month hole in the wall apartment.  I interviewed, with Howard, then starting up a machine/ instrument shop on the Wright State campus.  Howard needed an assistant, a gopher, someone to help organize, and clean up, and perhaps learn simple machining.  I got the work study job, and learned many lessons from the old machinist, lessons that helped carry me through the rest of my education and through life.  One day, after some months of working together, Howard asked me if I knew why he had hired me?  I confessed ignorance, and Howard replied that it was because of my handshake.  You came in for your interview and you shook my  hand, others had interviewed before me, “But your handshake was quick, and not weak!”  After graduation and 35 years of life, I again was reunited with my old friend Howard.  I thanked him for giving me that much needed opportunity, and am grateful to have been able to enjoy a couple of suppers together with him before his passing.
Pete and I stopped, and picked up Billy on our way to the course.  Bill also came from a masonic family, and so we enjoyed a great day of conversation and brotherhood on the golf course.  Yes, we all shook hands, and probably stood too close, and occasionally picked up each other’s club or golfball.  We knew better, and yes we also shared hand cleaner and wipes, after our round.
I suppose this is our new dilemma, do we act like we don’t know each other?  Is handshaking a thing of the past?  Are we doomed if we shake a friend’s hand?  I guess we shall find out.  I myself, will try to get use to carrying and using hand sanitizer more often.  The handshake will be hard to unlearn!  
Persevere my masonic friends.

My Masonic Story – Stanley T. Benner

Ill. Stanley T. Benner, 33 °, shares about three men who touched his life in Freemasonry.

There are three PM’s who have really touched my heart in my 49 plus years in Masonry. Two were PM’s of Lincoln Lodge #693 in Middletown – Chester R. Berry and Cary I. Fenton MSA and Thomas C. Hubler 33° from Eastern Star Lodge #55 in Franklin, Ohio. We were all great friends and when they became seriously sick we talked about life, the good times and bad and regrets of the past and their loved ones that would be left behind. I allowed them to talk with me when others wanted to stay away from the subject. When they died a part of me died with them. I don’t know how to explain how this happened, but for the fact that we were Masons trying to help and understand what would lie ahead.

Chester was a terrible diabetic and his kidneys, we’re shutting down and there was little to be done but await death. He loved to eat, but was told that was the worst thing he could do for his health. When the end was near, his wife Jean asked if my wife Jerrolyn could fix him his favorite meal, which was a roast with all the trimmings and dessert. He had one of his last meals with us and he loved it! Shortly after, he was administered anesthesia for a routine test and never woke up. I gave his Masonic service and even sang a song just for him.

Next came Cary I Fenton, an MSA from the Valley of Dayton, who fought colon cancer for many years. When he had a bone marrow transplant, I would call and visit him during his recovery and treatment. His wife Nancy also had cancer and when she died, Cary just gave up and quit his cancer treatments and died within the next year. We traveled to Scottish Rite many times. He was the first director of the new 17° degree and active in Red Cross. When Cary was nearing his end, hospice cared for Cary at his home. I got a phone call during a round of golf from a hospice nurse and she said Cary wanted to see his best friend! 😢 I directly went to his house and he was awaiting me before he died. I held his hand and talked with him and kissed him on his forehead and said goodbye to my best friend. I again did his Masonic Funeral Serice and his ring service as well.

Next was Thomas Hubler 33° who was my mentor director of the Eighteenth Degree since I left being the Most Wise Master in 1997. Once he became really sick with Parkinson’s disease, he announced his decision to retire as Director of the Eighteenth and asked me to replace him. I would try to visit Tom weekly and call him between my visits. Tom was a planner and he typed out on a sheet of paper how his Masonic Service and Scottish Rite Ring Service would be delivered. I gave all the funeral services per his written instructions and sang two songs as well. 

These were my Masonic brothers who I dearly loved and think of them often. I would never have met them if we weren’t members of the Masonic Fraternity. We had a bond that no one could break. I don’t know if I should list their names or not, because there are so many other Masons who have touched my life in a positive way during my journey. I will continue to give what comfort I can to people who want to talk about their troubles in life. I’ve shared with two brothers whose sons have committed suicide and the pain that each of us have suffered. Life goes on.

ANNOUNCING Summer Speaker Series

We are pleased to announce an exciting new Masonic speaker series hosted by the Valley of Dayton on Zoom. Our first speaker will be Masonic author and scholar Ill. Bro. Mark A. Tabbert, 33°, who will be our online guest June 24. The series will be a webinar where you will not only hear a presentation, but can ask questions of our guests.
This program is open to all Master Masons free of charge — but we require advance registration at the link below:

REGISTER – Mark A. Tabbert – June 24

Freemasonry in Troubled Times – Rodger Daye


Though I am new to Masonry, Masonry is not new to me. I became a Master Mason at 67 years of age and my only regrets were that I didn’t do it when I was 21 and that I was not able to have my father sign my petition. My father was very prominent in his lodge and especially as Commander of his Knights Templar Commandery. My father signed me up for DeMolay where I was very active and for the most of my tenure was the Secretary/Treasurer of my chapter.

My career took me to live all over the United States and consequently I never petitioned a lodge. I came home to care for my father after being estranged from the family for 32 years. Dad said in a conversation that he would sign my petition and pay my dues and help me study for my degrees. Well, dad was 95 with great intentions and it just never happened. My father was a great man for imparting all types of wisdom and some which at times was humorous while being true. One thing he said to me about my desire to become a Mason was this, “Son, being a Mason will improve every aspect of your life and will make you a better man. While you’ll never be disappointed in what Masonry has to teach you, you may at times be disappointed in some of your brother Masons.” Well, we’re all human and when you enter the human element you are often disappointed.

I didn’t have many friends through the years, probably from moving around a lot and being naturally kind of a loner. I’m widowed and live alone. After laying dad to rest I asked his closest friend and golf buddy if he would sign my petition. After saying yes, he came back to me and said, “You know, I’m over 80 years old and don’t have much energy for that but I have a really close friend who pretty much runs the Masonic Temple and with his name on your petition and your dad’s name in the Temple you won’t have a problem. I’ll have him call you.” A week or so later I got a call, “I hear you’re interested in becoming a Mason.” The man went on to tell me “You know, your dad, and my dad used to study for their degrees together.” I said I wasn’t surprised by that as my dad was very involved with his lodge. The man went on, “You don’t recognize me do you.” He told me his name and I nearly passed out. We grew up together, went through DeMolay together and were friends through High School and I hadn’t seen him since. We are now very close friends, and he has been at my side every step of the way.

My plan is to follow York Rite to Knight’s Templar and follow my father, grand father and great grandfather’s footsteps. I became a 32nd degree Mason last November and in yesterday’s mail I received my certificate. As I looked at it, the tears streamed down my face and I looked up and just said, ‘Well how about that,Pop, what do you think about this!”

My health is taking a few new turns and being without family and only a few friends causes one to think. While I hope to be more active and make more friends which I’ve already started to do, I know that I have a place to go if I need to, if living on my own becomes dangerous.

When I go to my lodge meetings there are times when we barely can fill the seats of the officers. I sit there and imagine that lodge hall in my father’s day or in the day of my ancestors that belonged to that lodge. I imagine the room filled to capacity. I remember parades in town with huge formations and drills by the Knights Templar and large announcements in the newspaper for installations of officers of the lodges. Times change. I hope the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. With the world
seeming to crumble around our shins we need more Masons, we need more good men and continue to make good men better. I wish I could meet every Mason out there!

Rodger Daye 32nd Degree Valley of Dayton
Anthony Lodge # 455

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