Volume LVIFebruary 2009Number 1

Stephen Gardner
R.W. Grand Master


Over the holidays, even amidst the financial conundrum that affects not only our nation but our world, I reflected on just how fortunate we are to live in this blessed country, to have homes to live in and family to love and a large network of Masonic brethren who support one another during the most somber and celebratory times. Our forefathers have been through even more distressing hardships, and yet they remained committed to advancing the values and expanding the legacy we continue today.

The "Change for the Troops" has been the most emotional thing I've been involved with since becoming a Mason. The entire Masonic family in Pennsylvania - the York Rite bodies, Scottish Rite Valleys, ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star and Masonic youth - has supported the program. Our Masonic Villages have contributed substantial amounts from collections made in their cafés and through various resident recreational clubs, and it's growing in awareness throughout our communities as others unrelated to our Masonic family wish to support the effort.

I am proud to report that the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia is now in pristine shape. My lovely wife describes it as, "glistening like a brand new sand castle." Thank God the original builders selected the stone they did - it looks magnificent now that it has been re-pointed and cleaned, and the windows have been restored. The overall transformation of this beautiful building is powerful; you owe it to yourself to check it out!

Those who know me know that I have a somewhat adventuresome spirit and am always looking for a challenge. I'll admit that I was truly tested when I attended the recent reunion for the Valley of Allentown. I was received as the class honoree... but left the class clown. (One might say I'll do just about anything to raise funds for charity!) When Commander-in-Chief Ill. Brother Doug Robinson asked me to the lectern for a presentation by Ill. Brother Maurice "Benny" Heater, I naturally became apprehensive. After presenting to me, on behalf of himself and his lovely wife Carol, a $1,000 personal contribution for the Temple Initiative, Bro. Benny flashed me a mischievous smile and put on his red Shrine clown nose. Pulling an identical nose out of his pocket, he announced that if I would be willing to wear it, another brother in the Valley would match his contribution. As you can see, I obliged, and true to his word, Ill. Brother George Nakonetschny, Past Commander-in-Chief for the Valley of Allentown who had contributed $5,000 to the "Change for the Troops" program at the Annual Communication Inaugural Ball, came up on stage and presented me with yet another $1,000 check for program. Later on, Ill. Brother Robinson asked me to don the nose one more time in exchange for his own $100 donation for "Change for the Troops." How could I turn down such fraternal generosity?

Events such as these demonstrate the meaningful bond we share as Freemasons and the opportunities we enjoy to mingle solemn ritual with friendly frivolity, while remaining true to our call to help others in need - to Preserve Our Heritage for Future Generations.

As of the end of December, the Unity Gavel and Box met its goal of visiting half of the lodges across the state, as well as additional events such as the December Quarterly Communication. It's amazing to consider the actual number of touches it has received as it traveled around the state. To me, it is a continuous reminder of the incredible feats we can accomplish when we labor in unanimity and give selflessly of our talents, our friendship and our wealth for the betterment not only of our Family of Freemasonry, but for our nation and our world. Whether it's our goal to bring our Masonic Temple back to its original glory, to increase officer proficiency, to support the troops who guarantee our freedom, to assist a Masonic charity or a widow in need, it's up to us to Earn it Again... and again... and again.

Even if it means temporarily trading your dignity for a big red clown nose!

Sincerely & fraternally,
R.W. Grand Master

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