Volune LIIIJanuary 2006Number 1

Two Masons Helping Masons See The Fruits of their Labors

Groundbreaking ceremony for the original Independent Living Community in Elizabethtown

Two Right Worshipful Past Grand Masters who led the Grand Lodge and our Masonic Villages through periods of great growth are now solidifying their commitment to the Mission of Love by becoming residents of one of the communities. Bro. Arthur and Jane Kurtz moved into a retirement living apartment at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown on Dec. 7, 2005, and Bro. Marvin and Rosalie Cunningham are looking forward to being amongst the first cottage residents at the Masonic Village at Dallas.

In his inaugural issue of The Pennsylvania Freemason dated February 1988, Bro. Arthur J. Kurtz stated, "...of the anticipated highlights of my two years to come, I wish to acquaint you with the most fervent and personally desired project of my administration. It is the independent retirement community to be constructed on the grounds of the Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown."

Bro. Kurtz at the presentation of the Tree of Life

His vision soon became reality. On May 27, 1988, the Committee on Masonic Homes approved the master plans for the community, and at the June 1 Quarterly Communication, Grand Lodge approved construction for Phase 1 of the plans. A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site on March 9, 1989, and construction began in June. On Sept. 22, the Datestone Ceremony was held in the Deike Auditorium and the first residents moved into their new homes in 1990. Since then, the Masonic Villages have served well over 1,400 retirement living residents in Elizabethtown, as well as hundreds more in Lafayette Hill, Sewickley and soon in Dallas.

In honor of their Past Master, members of Robert Burns Lodge No. 464 presented the Tree of Life sculpture to the Masonic Village. On display in the retirement living clubhouse lobby, the Tree of Life is a perpetual reminder of the man whose hard work and dedication allowed the community to grow and enhance the lives of so many. Carved from mahogany by sculptor Sanford Warfel, the Tree of Life permits a donor to make a contribution and add a leaf or base stone to the tree in honor or memory of someone or as an expression of gratitude. These funds are placed in an investment account and restricted for partial or fully subsidized payment for the monthly Resident's Service Fee for those retirement living residents whose funds have been depleted.

Also in 1988, the Committee on Masonic Homes adopted a new admissions policy that no longer required residents to turn over assets upon admission. Although these significant strides were made during his term, Bro. Kurtz doesn't claim them as his own; instead, he gives the credit to those who served the fraternity before and with him. Yet he is proud of what they accomplished together.

Lifelong Harrisburg residents, Bro. and Mrs. Kurtz relocated less than 30 miles to move into their two-bedroom apartment in Elizabethtown - in the same community that he endorsed 17 years ago. In addition to sharing the community with Brethren and ladies whom they already know, Bro. and Mrs. Kurtz also look forward to taking day trips and attending concerts and other forms of entertainment on campus. Healthcare security and the convenience of on-campus transportation, dining and maintenance-free living are also major perks.

"The Masonic Villages is an outstanding charitable organization. I think it's the finest medical facility in the entire country and it corresponds with our purpose for Freemasonry," Bro. Kurtz said. "It's a wonderful place to stay for the rest of my life."

Bro. Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., also led the fraternity through great change during his administration in 2002-2003. He was instrumental in implementing the union of the Masonic Homes of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (now the Masonic Villages) with the Masonic Home of Pennsylvania (now the Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill). This significant event was the culmination of more than 100 years of discussions among members across the state and strengthened the communities and their missions to provide quality services to our Family of Freemasonry. Also during his term, the Committee on Masonic Homes approved the development of a master plan for the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown and constructed the master plan for the Masonic Village at Sewickley, which consisted of retirement living apartments and cottages.

Bro. Cunningham performing the Datestone Ceremony for the Star Points Building at the Masonic Village at Sewickley

While discussions with the Irem Shrine did not begin until after his term as Grand Master, Bro. Cunningham was excited to hear of the opportunity for the Masonic Village at Dallas. "I have watched the quality of the cottages and the apartments since we started building at Elizabethtown, and I think it's wonderful that the Mission of the Masonic Villages is extending to this locale. It also provides good relations with our members at the Shrine," he said.

Even so, when they first heard the good news, the Cunninghams thought it would be a great place for them to live - sometime in the future. "Originally we decided to wait a few more years, but upon discovering how popular it was becoming, we thought we'd better get our names on the list or we might have to wait longer than we wanted to," Bro. Cunningham said. Now he and Rosalie agree that the timing will be just right - their cottage should be done just before the holidays. They will downsize from two homes to one, leaving their maintenance woes behind them. While they will miss their church family in Collegeville and the beautiful scenery of the Poconos, they anticipate finding a new place to nourish their souls amidst the beautiful mountainous landscape surrounding the Masonic Village at Dallas.

Bro. Cunningham shakes hands with Bro. Morton Lader, then- Chairman of the Masonic Home of PA, (now the Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill). Bro. Joseph E. Murphy, CEO of the Masonic Villages, and Adrienne Staudenmayer, Executive Director of the Lafayette Hill community, show their support.

Outdoor enthusiasts, the Cunninghams enjoy walking and riding their bikes, something they will be able to do at nearby College Misericordia, which can be seen from the Irem Shrine Clubhouse. Harvey's Lake, the largest natural lake in the Commonwealth, is just three miles from the Masonic Village. Instead of going away for enjoyment, they will travel just a few miles from their new home!

The Cunninghams have chosen a two-bedroom, 1½ bath cottage, and are particularly impressed with the excellent quality and low-maintenance designs of the cottage interiors. They plan to do a lot of reading, especially since Bro. Cunningham is now officially retired... although he still plans to stay busy with Masonic activities and, of course, the golf course in his backyard. Rosalie plans to get involved with a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which sparks her interest in patriotism and quilting.

They also anticipate getting to know their new neighbors. "I think it affords more of a social atmosphere with people in a small community," Rosalie said. "It will truly be like a little village." Bro. Cunningham sums it up like this: "We felt it was a good fit for us for future quality living. I think it will be a life of excellence. It seems like it's meant to be - a good marriage between the Masonic Villages and the Shriners at the Irem Temple."

Two Brethren -- both Masons Helping Masons - have taken the necessary steps to plan for their future. If you would like more information on how you, too, can become part of the Masonic Villages family, contact the community of your choice.

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