FLORENCE EMILY HOUTZ
As she recovered from illness in the Masonic Health Care Center, Florence Emily Houtz recalled the first time she saw the Masonic Homes, talked about her family and how her father told her to "Call the Masons" if she ever needed help. She told her story to Lee H. Heile, a volunteer assisting in the Renaissance Unit, who wrote the following article recounting those recollections.
Florence Emily Houtz was just 12-years old when she first saw Elizabethtown. Her father, the late Rev. Harry D. Houtz (Schuylkill Lodge 138, Orwigsburg), was looking for a new place to live and preach, having served five churches in East Berlin. In their new Nash automobile, they traveled along the Old Harrisburg Pike. He told Florence about the "Grand Lodge" the Masons had built in Elizabethtown.
Seeing the beautiful red brick building, they pulled over and parked, staring at the fine three-story building with the white columns. He had assumed that what is now the Brown Apartments was the "Masonic Grand Lodge." It was then one of several of the Children's Homes. Rev. Houtz told Florence that if she was ever in need of help, it was the Masons who would help her.
Sixty-five years later, Florence Houtz remembered her father's words.
Rev. Houtz, a 32º Mason, cared deeply for those in serious need. Before Social Security, he petitioned local and state governments to help those unable to help themselves, donating his grandfather's homestead as the first "poor farm" in Lebanon County.
Florence went to high school in Selinsgrove, to Susquehanna University, and later to the University of Pennsylvania, earning degrees in English Literature. She taught for some time at Lebanon Valley College, Cedar Crest College, and Hardwick College in New York.
In 1962, she moved to Philadelphia, deciding to concentrate on writing poetry, songs, and plays. She has self-published four books and even wrote songs for the McGovern presidential campaign. She loved to tour the city and found the beautiful Masonic Temple just as her father had described it.
When she needed help at age 76, she called the Masonic Temple and talked to Daniel J. Hinds, the Building Superintendent. He took it upon himself to take her fresh baked goods and cashed her checks as needed. Soon afterward, Grand Master Robert L. Dluge, Jr., decided to see what else could be done for her, since she needed medical attention as well. With the help of Mr. Hinds and the Grand Master, Florence Houtz came back to Elizabethtown.
The campus has certainly changed in 65 years, but the commitment to loving care has not. Just as her father had said so long ago outside a red brick building, "If you ever need help, call the Masons."