My Journey to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

Jonathan Mark Mills, DDGM
District Educational Officer
Masonic District 49

I suppose that my Masonic journey began before I was even born. My grandfather, Illustrious Luther Mills, 33° IGH, inspired my father, Worshipful Warren P. Mills, PM, to join the Masonic Fraternity. When I turned thirteen, I joined the International Order of DeMolay and served as the Master Councilor and Chaplain of my DeMolay Chapter. I was awarded the Representative DeMolay Medal and many merit bars. I attended various open Masonic functions such as installations of officers, picnics, etc. and was an escort for one of my Sisters in the Order of the Rainbow for several years, and we are still very close friends to this day.

I went to college and then joined the U.S. Army. I served as a Combat Medic, Flight Medic and as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, and my assignments were determined by the Special Management Branch at the Department of the Army. I was deployed to many parts of the world, without my family, and never really had the time to petition a Masonic Lodge, as I had no real roots in any one given place. My wife’s grandfather, Worshipful Lee Roy Shoemaker, PM, and her father, Brother William Howard Shoemaker, were both members of Fidelity Lodge No. 173 in Nickelsville, Virginia. Brother William Howard Shoemaker passed to the Celestial Lodge above in 1996. I asked my wife’s family if he was going to have a Masonic funeral service, since my father had conducted many of these when I was a young man. They asked me to find out how this could be arranged, and not being a Mason at the time, I asked around to find out the name of a Mason or Masons to whom I could talk. Right Worshipful Dick Odle was the Mason with whom I was put in contact, and he arranged for the Masonic funeral service to be conducted. He and a group of other Masons came to the Shoemaker Family Cemetery and assisted in cleaning up the graveyard and removing old junk and trees that had surrounded the area. This act of kindness and the fraternal bond these men shared had reignited my desire to become a Mason and continue the time-honored membership our families had in this Fraternity.

I became the Postmaster of my hometown, Nickelsville, Virginia in August of 2003. One of my rural carriers, Worshipful John L. Compton, was a Past Master of Fidelity Lodge No. 173. We had discussions quite often on Freemasonry, and I asked him for a petition for membership; he was my first line signer and Right Worshipful
Dick Odle was my second. I was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in March of 2004.

I have had the pleasure of receiving many fine titles and awards in my lifetime, but none can take the place of honor that the title “Brother” and “Master Mason” have for me!

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Why I Became A Mason, Walter W. Young, PDDGM, Grand Provost.

I was born in the Piedmont section of North Carolina in the middle of World War II. There was very little industry in the small town I grew up in and most families raised Tobacco as their only money crop. They were all sharecroppers, which meant the farm owner provided the land and a small tenant house for the sharecropper and his family to live in, and the sharecropper provided all the labor. In the fall of the year, they would split the profits from the sale of the tobacco.

When I was two years old, my father succumbed to cancer, leaving my Mother, who was in her middle thirties, with six children to feed and clothe without the safety net we know today. Luckily for us, my father was a Mason and left many Masonic friends in the small community in which I grew up. One such friend, Brother Jack Hall, owned a Service Station and took care of my Mother’s automobile while she tried valiantly to provide for her young brood. In my early years, she worked in a cotton mill while we raised tobacco, but by fifth grade, she tried her hand at door to door selling. I, being the youngest, and without a sitter, traveled with my mother as she sold Stanley Home Products to all the homemakers within a fifty-mile radius of our home. If we had car trouble of any kind, Mother knew all she had to do was get a message to Brother Jack Hall, and he would come find us, and bail us out of our circumstance. I have never forgotten the security blanket he provided for us. In the Fall of the year, we would take our tobacco to market and the money from the sale of our only cash crop would put shoes on our feet and clothes on our back. I remember when we took our tobacco to market, one of Dad’s Masonic friends would always look after Mother’s baskets of tobacco and make sure she was not cheated as the auctioneer snaked his way down the long lines of stacked tobacco. With the money we got from the sale of the tobacco, we would always go to the local clothing store to purchase school clothes for the coming year. I found it strange that the owner of the store always gave mymother a discount. I found out later in life, he was an old Masonic friend of my father. You cannot imagine the impact this had on a young widow with nowhere else to turn, and a young child growing up in such abject poverty.

As a young man, I found myself very protective of women in general, but especially young single mothers. One in particular was a maid for one of my customers. She would always call me to cut her grass, fix her washing machine, or unstop a sink. Children of all ages steal their way into my heart. My children and grandchildren have always been the focus of my life. This early Masonic experience made me a better father, son, and husband. After joining the Fraternity, I found that there is a special bond among us that transcends religion, financial status, titles, or stature in the community. We can disagree in Lodge, sometimes heatedly, but at the end of the evening as we leave the sanctity of the temple, we are still friends and Brothers. This is what the Fraternity teaches. This is how we are supposed to live our lives, looking after each other, sharing in a Brother’s joy, and standing beside him to comfort him in his sorrow. If you have ever been to a Masonic funeral then you have witnessed this Brotherly love and affection as we pay our last tribute of respect to our departing Brother. You saw first hand the care and comfort we extend to
the widow in her hour of grief.

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My Unusual Usual Reflections on my first five years in Freemasonry by Worshipful Patrick C. Murphrey.

My name is Patrick Murphrey; I’m twenty-eight years old and a Past Master of Bremond Lodge No. 241 in Newport News, Virginia. This past February 2011, I celebrated my five-year anniversary of being raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

In this short span, I’ve had a lot of amazing and unexpected experiences. Some of which I’d like to share with you. Let’s start at the beginning:

My Masonic journey began in the summer of 2005. I had just graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Christopher Newport University (“CNU”). At CNU, I had been a charter member of the Virginia Pi Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (“SigEp”); a national Greek-Letter Fraternity. As an alumnus of SigEp, my involvement was now limited to being an advisor and mentor to the undergraduates. An important role, no doubt, but I desired to continue my own personal fraternal experience. When I found out that many of SigEp’s founders were Freemasons and that SigEp’s ritual was influenced by Freemasonry, my interest in the Craft was peaked.

With my interest in Freemasonry at a fever pitch, I was determined to find out what I needed to do to apply for membership in this ancient and honorable society. Not knowing any Freemasons, I did what any child of the 1980’s would do; I Googled It! This took me to the Grand Lodge of Virginia website where I completed an interest form. A few days later, I was contacted by Right Worshipful Donald M. Coffey, Jr., then the District Deputy Grand Master of District 14B (Newport News). He suggested I make contact with Bremond Lodge No. 241 in Newport News. Fast forward to February 4, 2006, when I was raised to Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

With December 2006 approaching, the incoming Worshipful Master, Worshipful William “Kenny” Kilgore asked me to serve as his Junior Steward. I gladly accepted, excited at being given this opportunity to give back to the Lodge, which had invested so much in me. Over the next several years, I was excited to be able to learn more about Masonry, participating in the degree work, meeting more Brothers, and visiting Lodges across the region. So much happened in the next several years that I’ve delineated the highlights below:

In May 2007, I graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia with my Masters in Public Administration.
In August 2007, I began law school at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
December 2007, I was elected and installed as Junior Deacon of Bremond Lodge No. 241.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was elected and installed as Junior Warden in December 2008 and was elected and installed as Worshipful Master in December 2009. At age 26, I found myself to be the youngest Worshipful Master in the history of Bremond Lodge No. 241 (chartered in 1883). As Master of such a historic Lodge, I felt an immense responsibility to do the best job I possibly could. Prior to elections, I had met several times with the presumed elected officers for 2010. At these meetings, we got to know each other better, brainstormed, and developed our calendar for 2010. I was determined that 2010 would not be “my year” but “the Lodge’s year.” With my law school graduation and bar examination looming in 2010, I knew anything less than a team effort would spell disaster.

Thanks to the efforts of the Lodge officers and the participation of our members, we had an amazing year in 2010. Some of the highlights include: We contributed over $1,300 to the Masonic Home of Virginia (, earning the Morlock Award with over 15% of Lodge Brethren contributing $5 or more.

We supported our troops, by hosting Honor and Remember Founder, George Lutz, as a guest speaker. Mr. Lutz developed the Honor and Remember Flag to pay tribute to America’s fallen soldiers.

We recognized and paid tribute to those Brethren of Peninsula Lodge, which consolidated with Bremond Lodge in 1992 at a special “Peninsula Lodge Night” in August. We had articles published about our Lodge in “The Scottish Rite Journal”, “The Northern Light”, “The Virginia Masonic Herald,” and “The Daily Press.” We’ve been featured on the “Inside Newport News” program on the City television channel. We made Masons, raising over ten new Master Masons. We had the Master Mason catechism recited in Lodge several times.

We increased our focus on those newest Master Masons, getting them involved in Lodge affairs from Day 1. It became a regular occurrence to see Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts enjoying the fellowship at Lodge. 

We recognized the efforts and contributions of our Brethren through the implementation of a Lodge awards program. We hosted a unique “100 Master Mason Night” in June where we welcomed Most Worshipful William E. Rorer, Jr., the then Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, along with 146 Brethren to our Lodge.

In September, we presented Community Builders Awards to Newport News Police Chief James Fox and former Fire Chief Kenneth Jones. They have over eighty years of public safety experience combined. In attendance, was the Mayor of Newport News, Dr. McKinley Price, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn,
Delegate Robin Abbott, Delegate Glenn Oder, State Senator John Miller and Most William E. Rorer, Jr., the then Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.

In October, we partnered with Emera Chapter No. 31, Order of the Eastern Star, to host the 2nd Annual Youth Organization Day. This event was attended by representatives from DeMolay, Job’s Daughters and Rainbow for Girls. Most Worshipful William E. Rorer, Jr., the then Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, also attended. 

Midway during my year in the East, I graduated from law school. About two months later, I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia to take the two-day Virginia Bar Examination. This was a grueling rite of passage that was preceded by months of studying and prayer. The results came in late October 2010, and I learned that I had passed the exam. I was sworn in as an attorney at a special session of the Virginia Supreme Court in Richmond prior to the Grand Annual Communication. I was honored to attend the 2010 Grand Annual Communication (affectionately known as “Grand Lodge”) in Richmond as my Lodge’s voting delegate. I had attended my first Grand Annual Communication the previous year and felt like I didn’t know anyone.  This year, however, I felt like I knew everyone. The fellowship was excellent, and I was pleased that eighteen members of Bremond Lodge attended the Communication. When I arrived in Richmond, I was surprised to learn that the Grand Master had selected me to open the Grand Lodge session on Saturday morning. This is an immense honor as the Grand Master only gets to select two Brothers (one for Friday and one for Saturday). My role was to sit in the Grand Master’s chair in the Grand East, and “call-up” the Brethren asking them to stand as the Grand Lodge Officers processed into the chamber. I then greeted the Grand Master in the Grand East relinquishing it to him to preside. Let me say that it was a bit intimidating to sit in the Grand Master’s chair with all of the Past Grand Masters of Virginia and distinguished guests sitting behind me. I am thankful to Most Worshipful James D. Cole and Most Worshipful Alan W. Adkins for setting me at ease and explaining the process to me.

Also, at that Grand Annual Communication, I was honored to be recognized as one of the Outstanding Worshipful Masters in 2010. I also was honored to receive the Grand Master’s Award of Merit, by which the Grand Master recognized those individuals that had especially assisted him during his term.

In December 2010, I proudly looked on as my successor was installed. I was happy with what we had accomplished as a Lodge over the past year. I felt that a strong foundation was laid which should make for continued success in the future. While I was proud to pass the baton, it was a little bittersweet. I cherished every moment I had as Worshipful Master. What a great honor it was to serve my Brethren. 2010 was a great year. I graduated law school, studied for and passed the Virginia Bar Exam, and served as Worshipful Master of Bremond Lodge No. 241. To cap it off, I proposed to my girlfriend of four years, Katie, on Christmas Day, and she said “Yes!”.  Throughout all of my activities, both educational and fraternal, she has always been there to support me. What a perfect ending to a great year.

Since leaving the East, I’ve tried to stay active as the newest Past Master of my Lodge. I also serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Membership as the Vice Chairman for Member Development. I have also taken on more responsibilities in other Masonic organizations.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this brief journey through my first five years in Freemasonry, where the unusual became usual, and the unexpected became expected. The best part of it all has been the friendships and memories I’ve developed with the Brethren I’ve encountered along the way. Masonry is so much more than symbols and ritual, at its core, Masonry is defined by the people that are in it. Based on that, Freemasonry has a lot of reasons to be proud. Take it to the bank.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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